Fire Marshals say PATC Fire Cause ‘Undetermined’

A report from the State Fire Marshals’ office has ruled the cause of a fire that burned the new alcohol treatment center in Bethel as ‘undetermined’. The building is owned by the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation and was fully insured.

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The report, completed December 10th, according to state fire officials, was released to KYUK today (12/24). The new Phillip Ayagnirvik Treatment Center, or PATC, a 16-bed alcohol treatment facility, was under construction and 90-percent framed.

In the report, investigators say the fire started in the southwest corner of the building near a locked utility locker but they could not determine the ignition source. They rule out all possible mechanical and electrical causes. The summary does not explicitly rule out arson. The case is closed now, but could reopen if further information is received.

Behtel FireDan Winkelman is the CEO of YKHC. His only comment was that, “YKHC offers a $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the recent fire at PATC …”.

Investigators asked local crews about vandalism and were told that there had been no recent problems, but there were problems with spray-painting several months ago.

The report says four young people who had just left the Teen Center were the first witnesses as they walked toward the power plant. Investigators interviewed the teens for their report and collected photos and video from their phones.

One of the teens said they saw a light at the building but realized it was a fire once they got closer. One teen climbed a ladder and said he saw electric wires burning, sparking and a shelf on fire.

The first photo was taken at 8:15 p.m. The teens said they called 9-1-1 at 8:20 p.m. and started recording video at 8:26. The Bethel Fire Department was dispatched to the blaze, at 8:19 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 27th.

The report says the building is a total loss. The estimated value of the structure and contents was more than $12,500,00.00 dollars. The full report is available here.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.