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Keith Johnson, Deseret Morning News
Yellow tape surrounds a small apartment in Provo after fire gutted the building Tuesday, killing a woman in her mid-50s.

PROVO — After looking at initial medical reports, investigators have ruled out foul play in the fatal apartment fire in Provo on Tuesday night.

"Soot and smoke in her trachea and lungs indicate to us that — along with some of the preliminary evidence — we (can rule) out a suspicious fire," said Provo Fire Chief Coy Porter. He said the balance of the probe will focus on whether it was an accident- or smoking-caused fire.

The state medical examiner's office determined Wednesday that the charred human remains found in the apartment were those of a woman in her mid-50s, Porter said.

The investigation, led by Provo's fire marshal, focused mainly on identifying the victim, but because dental records proved inconclusive, Porter said officials will take DNA samples in order to confirm an identity.

Provo detectives assist where they can, said Provo Police Capt. Rick Healey.

"We're just wanting to make sure that we cover all the bases in case something comes back that looks suspicious," he said.

Healey said police were initially interested in a man who had been living with the woman in the apartment. But the man, who was arrested a week and a half ago for investigation of domestic violence and then released from jail Monday, was not in the area when the fire was reported.

"We've placed everybody in places where they would seem to have a reasonable alibi," Healey said.

The last person to see the woman had been with her in the afternoon but left around 5 p.m., Porter said.

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Because of Wednesday's medical focus, officers also need another day or two to determine the cause of the fire, which began in the bedroom, Porter said.

The apartment, located behind the China Garden restaurant at 1425 S. State, had two bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, a three-quarter bath and a half-bath, and will need to be totally renovated because of the fire and smoke damage, Porter said.

The apartment was attached to the restaurant, but the eatery was not damaged in the blaze, nor were seven other housing units on the north side of the restaurant.

The owner of the restaurant was in his office but unaware of the fire until police arrived a few minutes after 7 p.m., Porter said.


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com