Polaris casualty identified; cause of fire under investigation

Nome’s volunteer firefighters spray what remains of the Polaris Hotel earlier today to cool off the site before investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrive. Images below: scenes from the Polaris Hotel fire site on Wednesday. (Image courtesy of John Handeland.)

In the aftermath of the Polaris Hotel fire, which raged for more than half of the day Tuesday, a body has been found and her identity has been determined.

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63-year-old Bette Ann Haugen of Nome was recovered from the debris of the burnt-out Polaris building Tuesday evening. Haugen’s body has been sent to the State Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy.

Although the fire was extinguished, one Nome fire truck and crew were spraying what remains of the hotel earlier Wednesday to cool off the hotspots before investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived.

Megan Peters, a spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Public Safety, said two investigators are conducting an onsite investigation into the cause of the fire. Once their work is done at the scene, they will return to Anchorage.

Peters said she is unsure of how long the investigators will be in Nome or when they will release information on what caused the fire.

For now, the City of Nome’s Department of Public Works has secured the Polaris Hotel building. According to a statement from the City, damages from the fire are estimated to be over $750,000.

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Davis Hovey is a news reporter at KNOM - Nome. Hovey was born and raised in Virginia. He spent most of his childhood in Greene County 20 minutes outside of Charlottesville where University of Virginia is located. Hovis was drawn in by the opportunity to work for a radio station in a remote, unique place like Nome Alaska. Hovis went to Syracuse University, where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Broadcast Digital Journalism.

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