Fire cause still under investigation

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KELLOGG — It may be some time before an official cause of the McConnell Hotel fire is declared, according to local and state fire officials.

Since the fire occurred on Aug. 29, speculation has been rampant concerning what started the massive blaze that could have destroyed much of uptown Kellogg.

Days after the fire, investigators with various insurance companies flooded the area to measure the scope of the damage to the buildings or businesses their companies cover.

In the case of the McConnell though, it appears any private investigation that was set to take place has now been called off.

According to Andy Thomas, a fire investigator with the Donan Co., the insurance company that covered the building and hired Donan has elected to simply pay the owners instead of continue its own investigation.

He explained this decision is a purely fiscal one, as it would cost more money to do an investigation than what the building was covered for.

Since Donan and the insurance company are private entities, Thomas was not at liberty to disclose his initial findings (if any).

Jason Blubaum, the Deputy State Fire Marshal for District one, confirmed Thomas’ statement regarding the private investigation.

“Its cheaper to pay the claim than to investigate,” he said.

The footprint where the McConnell used to stand on Main Street must be cleared of debris in order for a full investigation to be conducted.

Blubaum told the News-Press early estimates to remove that debris range anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000.

Since a private investigation is no longer an option, it is now up to the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Shoshone County Fire District No.2 Chief, Mark Aamodt, to make their own conclusion.

Aamodt said it could be some time before the owners of the building hire a contractor to clear the debris.

Currently, the cause of the fire remains “undetermined” due to officials not being able to examine the full fire area.

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