Cigarette may have caused Alaska Hotel fire

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Erica Fisher

Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.

That's where bar patrons would go outside to smoke standing on the wooden deck.

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"They would stand on this wood deck and have their cigarettes, and they would proceed to flick off the ashes or put their cigarette on or whatever," he explains. "What we're assuming has happened is one of the cigarettes wasn't completely out and got the fire going in the wall somehow."

Shorty says that the burning cigarette would have smouldered in that wall until it got some oxygen, which could have taken half an hour to an hour. Some witnesses have reported smelling something burning up to half an hour before the Fire Department was called.

The building, built in 1931, used sawdust for insulation, which helped in spreading the blaze quickly, as well as winds fanning the flames. Shorty says in this situation there is no fault blamed.

"It's the only plausible explanation we have, because there was no report of any flickering power, there was no power problems in the building or in the area, so it's really the only plausible reason we have that the fire would have started in that corner in that wall."

While there were some measures that could have prevented this situation, like signs prohibiting smoking within a certain distance of the building or proper cigarette disposals, Shorty says with a building as old as the hotel was, it may not have helped.

"The age of the building, the way the building was constructed, everything was weighed against it," he argues. "Those types of buildings, once you get a fire in them, boy it's hard to get to the seed of the fire to put it out before it does that kind of damage."

Today, a backhoe is on the property and crews are removing some of the material. Shorty expects it will be cleared up in the next three to four days, before getting backfilled and becoming a lot again.

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