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Update: Oregon State Capitol Fire Investigation Concluded
10/01/2008
Bill Holmstrom
Deputy Fire Marshal
Salem Fire Department
Office: (503) 932-5682
 
Joe Parrott
Deputy Fire Marshal
Salem Fire Department
Office: (503) 588-6245

On Saturday, August 30th, at 12:36 a.m. the Salem Fire Department was called to a fire at 900 Court St NE, the Oregon State Capitol.
 
A fire investigation team led by Salem Fire Department, with the assistance of Oregon State Police Arson & Explosives Section and Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives conducted a detailed investigation. Supplemental investigations were also conducted by three private fire investigators hired by insurance companies. Evidence at the scene was examined, witnesses and building maintenance staff interviewed, along with employees of the contractor who were working in the area prior to the fire.
 
The fire investigation team determined the fire started on the second floor exterior south side terrace outside the Governor's Ceremonial Room. This area was being used by a contractor to store materials and tools for the terrace re-sealing project.
 
The fire was able to spread to nearby combustible roofing and coating materials causing the fire to grow quickly before the fire was reported by witnesses. The fire was able to penetrate into the interior of the building through the glass exterior doors and windows on the south side of the Governor's Ceremonial Office. Fire and heat damage observed by fire investigators was consistent with a fire originating on the exterior of the building.
 
From the investigation fire investigators were able to eliminate a variety of sources of ignition through examination and laboratory testing of materials and equipment found near the area of origin. These included items such as electrically powered tools, adhesive chemicals, torches, and lighting equipment.
 
Though the exact cause of the fire remains undetermined, fire investigators concluded that the fire was most likely accidental in nature. Examination of the fire scene revealed numerous improperly discarded cigarettes among the equipment and materials being stored on the terrace near the area of origin of the fire.
 
Information obtained by fire investigators during the fire investigation provided no evidence that the fire was intentionally set or involved any criminal acts.
 
Cigarettes now sold in Oregon are required to be the "fire safer" type, less prone to causing fires. However, some of the workers on the terrace are from the State of Washington. Washington's governor signed into law a "fire safer" cigarette bill similar to Oregon's earlier this year. However it is not effective until August 1, 2009.