Case closed on Seward Street fire, cause remains undetermined

By December 13, 2017Juneau, Public Safety
EMTs work on patients during a house fire at 526 Seward Street on Sept. 17, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Brian Wallace)

EMTs work on patients during a house fire at 526 Seward Street on Sept. 17, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Brian Wallace)

Investigators say they weren’t able to determine how September’s fatal fire started in downtown Juneau.

The origin of the fire was on the second story back deck of the house at 526 Seward Street, Fire Marshal Dan Jager said.

But it’s unknown whether the fire started because of an electrical malfunction, cigarettes or other discarded smoking materials, or if someone intentionally started the fire, he said.

Jager said investigators can’t be completely certain of the cause.

“We have to be thorough and we were on this. But for us to just go off of a gut feeling and with no proof of actual cause, we can’t just say what the cause was without that.”

Jager said they conducted their own investigation with help from the Juneau Police Department. He also said a Seattle-based investigator from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, reviewed their photographs and interview statements.

The ATF investigator concluded the cause of the fire was undetermined.

In addition, remains of a porch light, a switch for the light and an exterior electrical outlet were examined at a Maryland ATF lab last week.

“They couldn’t say with 100 percent certainty say that it was not an electrical fire,” Jager said. “The reason for that is because there was missing components, which is typical for electrical items.”

Two brothers from Mexico died in the Sept. 17 fire: “Wilfrido” Luis Román Olivarría Mora, 34, and Adrian de Jesus Olivarría Mora, 21.

Seven other people, including four firefighters, were injured.

Jager said the case will be closed, but could be reopened if more evidence surfaces.

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