General Crime

* Santa Cruz ATF Helping Investigate Suspicious Fire at Brookdale Lodge

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The Tuesday night fire that severely damaged the historic Brookdale Lodge in Santa Cruz County was likely started under suspicious circumstances, a fire chief said today. Boulder Creek Fire Chief Kevin McClish said that investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrived Thursday to help determine the cause of the three-alarm fire, which was reported at about 5:30 p.m.  “The reason we’re calling it suspicious is how fast the fire moved and how much damage was done in a very short time,” McClish said today. He said the ATF called him the morning after the fire to offer assistance. McClish said he is the only full-time salaried member of his fire department, and welcomed the help. Agents will conduct witness interviews and help investigate the fire’s origin, he said. The ATF will also provide dogs trained to sniff out any accelerants that might have been used to spread the flames. McClish said he has talked to several witnesses about the early stages of the fire, and their accounts have been valuable to the investigation.  He spent much of today “digging in the rubble” at the site of the historic lodge at 11570 state Highway 9 in an unincorporated area of Santa Cruz County.  The lodge complex includes apartment units toward the back of the property that were badly burned, he said. Some of the 79 units were boarded up and vacant, he said, after being burned in another fire in 2005. The Red Cross is working with 65 people who were displaced by the fire. The fire burned part of the complex to the ground, McClish said, while other parts sustained fire or water damage.  Several fire agencies helped control the fire within an hour, according to Cal Fire.  The original Brookdale Lodge dates back to the 1890s. The complex
is now operated under the name Brookdale Inn & Spa.

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