Okmulgee fire's cause still smoky


Thursday, September 16th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


OKMULGEE, Okla (AP) -- The cause of a fire that destroyed several
downtown buildings earlier this month remains hazy following an
investigation by federal, state and local authorities.

"They really couldn't go either way -- accidental or
non-accidental -- until they get some more stuff evaluated or get
some more information," said Jeff Cochran, a Bureau of Alcohol,
Tobacco and Firearms agent. "The certified fire investigator left
it as an undetermined cause at this point."

Okmulgee Fire Chief Bob Hardridge said investigators believe the
"area of origin was probably in and around the alley and behind
the furniture store involved. The actual cause or ignition source
never was determined, so the cause will probably remain
undetermined until we should find some reason to change it."

It's not unusual for the cause of a fire to be left
undetermined, Fire Marshal's Office spokeswoman Shannon Rowland
said.

The Sept. 6 fire was the second fire in Okmulgee in three
months. A blaze on June 8 ravaged a half-block of downtown
buildings.

The Labor Day fire came only two days after the escape of Donald
Gean Miller, who was charged with three counts of arson in the June
8 fire. Although early speculation centered on Miller in connection
with the latest blaze, no evidence has surfaced to link him to it.

Miller remains at large, Okmulgee County Sheriff Audie Cole
said.