No signs of arson in Fort Clatsop fire

WARRENTON, Ore. — The cause of the Monday fire that destroyed a replica of the compound where the Lewis and Clark expedition spent the winter of 1805-06 still has not been determined, but investigators say there are no conclusive signs of arson.

The investigation continues, however, and Steve Ott, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Thursday that evidence will be sent to a laboratory to look for signs of flammable liquids. It will take months to receive the results.

Meanwhile, donations, condolences and offers to help rebuild Fort Clatsop have been pouring in.

Just hours after news of the fire first broke, people were coming up to park employees to hand them checks to help pay for the fort's reconstruction. Others sent messages to employees, such as: "I am a reasonable craftsman and can make almost anything I set my mind to in metal, wood or stone."

Chip Jenkins, superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, said the fort would be rebuilt, but he couldn't say whether it would be completed before the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial commemoration slated for mid-November.

"We're hearing an outpouring of support from the community," Jenkins said, adding that Interior Secretary Gale Norton has directed the National Park Service to make all necessary resources available to the park.

The structure was a replica of the site where the expedition spent the soggy winter after reaching the Pacific. The fire destroyed the side of the fort containing the enlisted men's quarters, and gutted the other side where the captain's quarters were located.

Jenkins said it appears nothing of the 50-year-old structure is salvageable.

The expedition built the compound in three weeks. The replica that burned took 18 months to build. Jenkins said rebuilding the fort should fall somewhere between the two time frames.

"Our goal is a legacy," he told The Daily Astorian newspaper. "Do you remember the reunion we had last year for the people who built the replica in 1955? In 2055, I would love to have a reunion of the people involved in the rebuild of Fort Clatsop."