Storage fire investigation
Renters resume salvaging
efforts after Sunday blaze destroyed millions of dollars of
JUNEAU EMPIRE © 2002 The
cause and source of a fire that destroyed a self-storage facility
near Lemon Creek on Sunday morning may never be known, a fire
official said today.
Fire Marshal Randy Waters said he is continuing to investigate
the fire that caused millions of dollars in private-property
damage and destroyed a building at the Juneau Self-Storage
facility. He is sifting through the rubble for clues and
interviewing witnesses and renters.
"There's about one-billionth of a chance we will be able
to determine the exact point of origin and cause," said
Waters. "The fire was devastatingly hot and virtually destroyed
the pointers we usually see. They're just gone. Things like
burn patterns and areas left standing are just nonexistent."
So far, arson is not suspected, Waters said. A preliminary
report may be available by the end of the week, he said.
Nearly 150 renters and agents on their behalf combed through
rubble Monday and today looking for anything salvageable.
Larry Spencer, general partner in Salmon Creek Partners,
which owns the storage facility, said he wanted to get tenants
onto the site as quickly as possible to increase their chances
of salvaging belongings and to speed cleanup efforts.
Spencer said he anticipates that today will be the last
day renters will be allowed to search the debris. Depending
when an investigation requested by Salmon Creek's insurance
company, Safeco, takes place, cleanup crews may start clearing
the site Wednesday. Damage to the 14,000-square-foot building
is estimated at $750,000.
Waters said the fire was so hot and caused so much damage
because of the density of items packed into the storage
spaces. Materials such as ammunition and cylinders of propane
added to the fire's intensity, firefighters said Monday.
Firefighters said Monday that 3,000 rounds of ammunition
stored in one of the units exploded during the blaze. Spencer
said he does not know who owned the ammunition or why the
person had 3,000 rounds. He said the lease agreement doesn't
allow renters to store anything that was explosive or flammable.
He said he would examine each request by a renter to store
weapons on a case-by-case basis.
Waters said that during his investigation he recovered
numerous firearms and ammunition from the rubble. He said
at least 10 percent of the units had weapons in them.
Police Capt. Tom Porter said that although it may be unwise
to do so, it is not illegal to store ammunition in a public
facility, nor is it illegal to own the amount of ammunition
that firefighters referred to.
Firefighters alleged Monday that doors were left open in
the storage facility. According to Porter, this could indicate
But Waters said it is possible tenants left the doors propped
open, and a security guard in charge of securing the area
may have failed to close them before the fire started.
Spencer said there's no hard evidence that the doors were
left open and said he believes they were closed, judging
by the way they fell in a "closed position" in the rubble.
Porter said it is possible that if, as first reported by
the fire department, the fire started in two locations,
that also could indicate arson. Waters said there is no
evidence so far that the fire started in two places.
Spencer said he did not know how the fire started and would
not speculate whether it was arson. However, he is confident
it was not from a malfunction in the facility's boiler or
the electricity system, two possible fire-starters in homes.
Spencer said the boiler room was the least damaged, so
most likely wasn't the cause of the fire. Also, power in
some of the units shuts off automatically when tenants leave,
and some units don't have electricity.