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Suspects identified in fire that destroyed 3 buildings in Teller

Casey Grove

A fire investigation in Teller has turned up suspects, Alaska State Troopers said Sunday, three days after a blaze destroyed several buildings in the Western Alaska village.

The fire broke out in the early morning hours Thursday on the second floor of an unused building that used to be the village store, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. In a Saturday post online, troopers said they'd identified "suspects" but stopped short of blaming an arsonist for the fire or naming anyone specific.

"I don't know if that means it was intentionally set or accidentally set, but it was on the second floor of a building that wasn't supposed to be occupied, so somebody had to be involved," Peters said.

The flames destroyed three buildings, including one occupied by the Mary's Igloo Traditional Council, troopers said. Teller residents, who do not have a fire department, and firefighters flown in from Nome were able to keep the blaze from reaching Teller's power plant. A bulldozer was used to plow down two buildings -- structures that were not burning -- to stop the fire from spreading to a string of homes nearby, troopers said.

"Sometimes the only option they have is to knock down buildings as a firebreak, like you would with a wildfire," Peters said. "They have to stop it somehow and if another building catches, it just leapfrogs."

There appeared to be no serious injuries from the fire, troopers said. Peters said a trooper and state fire marshal's office investigation continues.

Reach Casey Grove at or 257-4589.

Anchorage Daily News