- Associated Press - Thursday, February 16, 2017

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A federal team will assist in the investigation of an apartment complex fire in Alaska’s largest city that left two people dead and is being treated as a possible arson case, officials said Thursday.

Anchorage Deputy Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick said the request for help from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives came after “rumors” and reports from possible witnesses that the early Wednesday fire might have been intentionally set.

But the primary reason for the request is because of the large fire scene at the Royal Suite Lodge complex, Hettrick said. As many as 20 ATF members from out of state where expected to arrive in Anchorage Thursday evening.

One of the dead has been identified as 38-year-old Teuaililo Nua, but the identity of the second fatal victim hasn’t been released. Another 16 people were injured in the fire. Hettrick said some of the victims jumped out of third- and second-story windows.

It took firefighters about three hours to bring the blaze under control.

Firefighters have conducted a second inspection of the building and did not find any other victims, she said. But she added that the southwest corner on the third floor was so damaged officials are not sure if there was anyone in that area.

“So at this point, we don’t believe there were any more victims, but we’re not going to say 100 percent sure yet,” Hettrick said.

The apartment is part of a two-building complex that is owned by Jinbo LLC, according to online records. Hettrick said company officials are based outside the state.

Jinbo representatives and the manager of the Royal Suite Lodge could not immediately be reached Thursday.

However, Hettrick said the apartment complex last underwent a code enforcement check in April 2016 and was found to be in complete compliance. She said there were no sprinkler systems in the building because it was built in 1977, before they were required.

The American Red Cross has said 50 people left homeless by the fire were taken to a shelter. As of Thursday afternoon, 21 people remained there, Red Cross spokeswoman Lisa Miller said. The others have since found alternative housing.


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