NESPELEM — A fire that destroyed the administration building for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation on Monday was apparently accidental, and is believed to be electrical, authorities said.
Those are the preliminary results of an investigation after accelerant-detecting dogs were taken around the perimeter of the building and did not hit on any accelerants, a news release from Tribal Police Chief Cory Orr said.
The inside of the building is still too hot for the dogs, but will be secured until the dogs can search there, too, the release said.
Investigators believe the fire started in the basement of the 38-year-old building and worked its way to the outside, where several witnesses reported seeing flames on the southeast corner of the building.
The fire was reported at 1:15 a.m., and was fully engulfed in flames soon after firefighters arrived.
About 40 employees were left without an office, including 14 members of the tribes’ governing council.
Tribal Chairman Michael Finley said this morning that about three-quarters of the building was made with cedar, and was constructed before the tribe had fire code requirements for new structures. “Cedar is important to our people, and I understand why it was built from cedar,” he said, “But when you look at it from the perspective of a fire marshal, it may not be the best building material.”
He said a building already designed to replace the tribal headquarters will adhere to fire codes that would help firefighters in suppression efforts.