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Polaris Casualty Identified; Cause of Fire Under Investigation

In the aftermath of the Polaris Hotel fire, which raged for more than half of the day yesterday, a body has been found and her identity has been determined.

63-year-old Bette Ann Haugen of Nome was recovered from the debris of the burnt-out Polaris building Tuesday evening. Haugen’s body has been sent to the State Medical Examiner’s office for an autopsy.

Although the fire was extinguished, one Nome fire truck and crew were spraying what remains of the hotel earlier today to cool off the hotspots before investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived.

Megan Peters, a spokesperson with the Alaska Department of Public Safety, says two investigators are conducting an onsite investigation into the cause of the fire. Once their work is done at the scene, they will return to Anchorage.

Peters says she is unsure of how long the investigators will be in Nome or when they will release information on what caused the fire.

For now, the City of Nome’s Department of Public Works has secured the Polaris Hotel building. According to a statement from the City, damages from the fire are estimated to be over $750,000.

Image at top: Nome’s volunteer firefighters spray what remains of the Polaris Hotel earlier today to cool off the site before investigators with the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrive. Images below: scenes from the Polaris Hotel fire site on Wednesday. All images courtesy of John Handeland.

Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled the first name of the Polaris fire casualty. Ms. Haugen’s name has been corrected to “Bette Ann,” rather than “Betty.”

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