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Investigation into Alpine building fire concludes with “undetermined” cause

The aftermath of a building fire on West Holland Avenue in Alpine, Texas that broke out on Sunday, May 26, 2024.
Alpine Police Department
The aftermath of a building fire on West Holland Avenue in Alpine, Texas that broke out on Sunday, May 26, 2024.

An investigation by Alpine police and the state fire marshal’s office was unable to determine what caused a devastating building fire that destroyed multiple downtown businesses last weekend, local authorities said Wednesday.

The Alpine Police Department said in a press release the cause of the fire was declared “undetermined.”

“Part of that reason is going to be due to degradation of evidence,” Alpine Fire Chief Andrew Pierce told Marfa Public Radio. “They took in multiple different points of information and were unable to come to a conclusive answer as to the actual cause.”

Pierce said the result of the investigation also closes the matter of who may have been at fault for the fire, which broke out Sunday afternoon in a historic building and completely destroyed five local businesses.

The local fire department is still reviewing its own response to the incident to “ensure everything was handled appropriately,” Pierce said.

The Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office said it is still working on an investigation report, which could be completed within a couple weeks.

Brewster County Judge Greg Henington, the top local elected official, said at a county meeting on Tuesday that the fire had apparently started somewhere between the ceiling and roof space of the approximately 100-year-old building.

“It was a shed-type roof, the fire got up in there and it took off,” he said. “So that fire just ran across basically what you would call the attic.”

Alpine’s city council has scheduled a special public meeting on Monday to discuss the fire and ways that officials may be able to help the business owners impacted by the fire. Officials are also set to discuss what should be done with the burned out building and whether it could be rehabilitated and used again.

A hair salon, antiques store and popular breakfast spot were among the establishments completely destroyed in the fire. Various fundraising efforts have already been launched to assist the impacted business owners, including one overseen by the non-profit Alpine Historical Association.

Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.