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ARSON BLAMED FOR FIRE THAT RAZED HISTORIC IDAHO HOTEL DEC. 19

Published: Sunday, Dec. 30 1990 12:00 a.m. MST

Burn patterns and other clues have led investigators to believe the Dec. 19 blaze that destroyed Caldwell's historic Saratoga hotel and restaurant probably was arson-caused.

And Caldwell Fire Chief Bruce Allcott said Friday that authorities have a suspect in mind, but that he had not been arrested or questioned.No additional details were being released.

"We're not hanging our hat on it," Allcott said. "He was just implicated by an anonymous caller."

Officers from the Canyon County Arson Task Force began sifting through the Saratoga's ruins Wednesday, and a demolition crew was close behind. Allcott said investigators found burn patterns and the possible presence of a liquid "accelerant," or fuel that might have been used to start the fire and spread the flames.

The chief said the fire apparently started in the basement on the building's west side.

The on-site investigation was completed by Friday, but samples of charred debris were sent to a state crime laboratory for analysis. Allcott said he did not expect to see any results from those tests until after New Year's.

"It might confirm some suspicions on the incendiary," he said.

More than 50 firefighters from several area departments braved freezing weather to battle the early morning blaze that destroyed the local landmark, which was built in 1903 and renovated in 1947.

The Saratoga, where assassin Harry Orchard prepared the bomb that killed former Gov. Frank Steunen-berg in December 1905, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

Its owners estimated the loss at about $200,000, including the building and equipment and antiques remaining inside after a September auction that sold off about $400,000 worth of the Saratoga's contents.

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