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Dog detects chemicals in ruins of restaurant

James Halpin
Anchorage Fire Department captain Sean Fredenhagen, right, talks to firefighter Dennis Martin from the ladder of truck 5 while extinguishing a blaze that destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot on July 12, 2008.
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage firefighters Dennis Martin and Captain Sean Fredenhagen work from the ladder of AFD's truck 5 to extinguish a fire at Peter's Sushi Spot on July 12, 2007.
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage firefighters Dennis Martin and Captain Sean Fredenhagen work from the ladder of AFD's truck 5 to extinguish a fire at Peter's Sushi Spot on July 12, 2007.
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage firefighters Dennis Martin and Captain Sean Fredenhagen work from the ladder of AFD's truck 5 to extinguish a fire at Peters Sushi Spot on July 12, 2007.
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Anchorage firefighters Dennis Martin and Captain Sean Fredenhagen work from the ladder of AFD's truck 5 to extinguish a fire at Peters Sushi Spot on July 12, 2007.
MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by ERIK HILL / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News
Fire destroyed Peter's Sushi Spot, a restaurant at 4140 B Street in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday morning, July 12, 2008. Firefighters worked into the afternoon to extinguish the blaze that was first reported at 5:30 a.m.
Photo by MARC LESTER / Anchorage Daily News

An accelerant-detecting dog sniffing through the rubble at Peter's Sushi Spot has detected chemicals in several areas near the fire's point of origin, leading investigators to send samples to a laboratory to determine whether arson could be a factor.

The fire broke out early Saturday morning at the Midtown restaurant near its east wall by an entrance that leads into an office, said Anchorage Fire Department spokeswoman Jen Klugh.

Investigators have been unable to determine conclusively if the fire started in the office or outside the exterior door on a walkway, she said.

"The investigators are not indicating that they think it's suspicious, but since Jodi did get some hits, they decided to get the samples to a lab," Klugh said. "It could turn out that it's suspicious, but at this point the investigators did not indicate that it was."

Two Anchorage fire investigators, accompanied by the dog, Jodi, and her handler, have spent most of the week sifting through the ashes and pumping water out of the restaurant's basement as they search for the fire's origin.

Though Jodi is trained to detect 25 accelerants, her getting a hit does not necessarily mean the chemical she detected was used in an arson, Klugh said. The chemical could have been there - in a bottle, for example - before the fire broke out.

The cause of the fire will remain under investigation until results from the lab come back, likely within a few weeks, Klugh said. If results indicate the fire's cause was not arson, the cause might never be established, she said.

In the meantime, the scene is sealed off in case investigators need to revisit it, Klugh said.

The fire was reported at about 5:30 a.m. Saturday, when passers-by called 911. It was unclear how long the restaurant, at 4140 B St., had already been burning, but by 8:50 a.m. the structure's east wall collapsed.

The blaze drew a two-alarm response and was burning so fiercely that firefighters had to pull out of the building shortly afer arriving and attack it from the outside with power hoses.

The building had a tar roof, foam insulation and no sprinkler system -- all of which worked to the fire's advantage. It is considered a total loss, with damages estimated at about $2 million, according to the department.

There were no injuries.

Find James Halpin online at adn.com/contact/jhalpin or call him at 257-4589.


By JAMES HALPIN