Water trickling through the ceiling showered residents of the Roosevelt Apartments as they began salvaging their belongings from among the fire rubble and ice Friday.
Fire investigators, in the meantime, say they believe Thursday morning's $1 million blaze that left 80 people homeless was purposely set."We've ruled out all accidental causes," said Salt Lake fire investigator Steve Herrmann, who said the fire's origin was "suspicious."
The blaze began in a stairwell on the east side of the building, Herrmann said.
Investigators questioned two former tenants of the Roosevelt Apartments, 256 E. 300 South, but no arrests have been made. "There are still a lot of things we have to check out," Herrmann said.
The fire, which started shortly before midnight Wednesday, burned all night after fire chiefs decided the roof was so badly burned that firefighters would be in danger if they stayed inside the building.
No one was injured in the blaze, though the building was gutted and declared a total loss. Firefighters spent all day Thursday putting out hot spots and sorting through the rubble. The fire was controlled by 6:30 a.m. and officially out by 5 p.m., but firefighters monitored the building throughout Thursday night for any hidden fires in the roof.
Battalion Chief Gordon Nicholl said the top priorities for Friday would be continuing the arson investigation and helping tenants retrieve belongings.
The arson investigation focuses on several former tenants of the apartment complex and possible ties to three small fires inside the building in the past several months, Nicholl said.
The Salt Lake chapter of the American Red Cross arranged three days' lodging at the Clarion Hotel in downtown Salt Lake City for the apartment building's 80 residents, all of whom will have to find new places to live.
The residents were taken to the hotel after being harbored most of the night at the YWCA, which is a block away from the Roosevelt.
Rudy Agustin was one of the first tenants to return Friday for his belongings. Water and smoke caused the most damage to his first-floor apartment, but many of his things were not damaged. Agustin said he will stay with friends until he finds a new place to live.
Rick Hansen was also in the apartment complex early Friday, helping his father clean out the apartment his grandfather had lived in for several months. Water and smoke caused the most damage there also.
Fire officials planned to escort tenants in and out of the burned building. No one would be allowed to go to the third floor, and some severely damaged second- and first-floor apartments would be off-limits as well.
Thursday morning's blaze was the second time in six weeks a suspicious fire has started at the Roosevelt. A Nov. 27 fire caused minor damage in the basement.