Fire Chief: Pagoda Fire 'Suspicious' - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Fire Chief: Pagoda Fire 'Suspicious'

TACOMA, Wash. - A two-alarm fire that caused significant damage to a landmark pagoda building at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma is being considered "suspicious in nature," the Tacoma Fire Department said."(The cause) is still undetermined but it is suspicious in nature," said Tacoma Assistant Fire Chief Faith Mueller during a live interview at noon on KIRO 7 Eyewitness News.Mueller added that the fire started in the basement.

"We'll be doing a whole lot more investigating," she said.Tacoma police and arson investigators are at the scene.Firefighters were called about 4:30 a.m. Friday by a security guard who noticed the fire and called 911.When crews arrived, the fire was burning out of control inside the building. Firefighters were still battling flames and putting out hot spots hours later.

KIRO 7 learned Friday that someone broke into the Pagoda a few weeks ago, but fire officials said there was no indication anyone broke in Friday or that the two incidents were related. The pagoda in the park's Japanese garden is a replica of a 17th century Japanese lodge and used to be used as a waiting room for street cars.

It is now used for functions and accommodated up to 200 people for weddings, memorial services and parties.A wedding that was planned there for June had to be canceled because of the fire.Gosnell and her husband, Mark, came to see the fire for themselves Friday and called their daughter to tell her the wedding couldn't happen.

"We just sent out all the invitations, so now we've got to find somewhere else to go," said Earlinda Gosnell, the bride's mother. "She said, 'It's all right, mama. We'll do it anyway, we'll handle it, it's fine.' She handled it much better than I did."The Tacoma Parks Department said on weekdays, the pagoda is used for Tacoma School's Science and Math Academy."It's part of our history -- it's Tacoma's history," said Marina Becker of Tacoma Parks.

"It's just a very special building and this is a very sad day."There is a full kitchen inside and firefighters said the bulk of the fire was in that area.The building is nearly 100 years old. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Copyright 2011 by KIROTV.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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