Government Officials Helping Out In Fire Investigation

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

Investigators say they are close to knowing what started the fire that destroyed part of downtown Okmulgee. It's been almost a week since fire destroyed several businesses near the corner of Okmulgee's 6th and Central. What used to be the furniture store, appliance store and arcade is now rubble.

"It doesn't help the community like this. This is the historic section of our town when these buildings are gone, they're gone," says Fire Chief Bob Hardridge.

But what started the fire that claimed part of downtown, isn't known, yet.

"It's always a lot more work than some people think it is," says Hardridge.

The Okmulgee Fire Chief says the damage from the fire is so great, that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms' National Response Team came in to help.

"We bring resources that most fire and police departments don't have," says Robert Graham,

ATF national response team. Including six certified fire investigators who combed through the charred remains to find out if the fire was set by an arsonist or if it was an accident. Another option would be for the ATF to list the cause as unknown.

"If we can not 100-percent in our minds feel one way or the other then that's what we'll have to call it," says Graham.

This isn't the first time the ATF team has been called in to investigate Okmulgee's downtown. In June, a fire gutted two other downtown buildings, just one street over. That fire turned out to be an arson, which has people living here asking questions about this fire.

"Obviously, from what I understand, they are suspicious because of the last one, but that doesn't really mean anything," says Graham.

They're hoping to find the missing piece soon, so the people of Okmulgee can start picking up the pieces again.