Cause of fire at RI House speaker’s law office remains unknown

West Bay

WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Investigators were unable to determine what caused the fire that destroyed R.I. House Speaker Joseph Shekarchi’s law office earlier this month.

A report released Thursday by the R.I. State Fire Marshal stated that, since the building had sustained extensive fire, water and smoke damage, they could not figure out what had sparked the flames.

“Based on the observations and information gathered during this investigation the circumstances or sequence of events that brought the ignition source and first fuel ignited together is undetermined,” the report states.

The report, however, did not rule out whether the fire was intentionally set.

“This hypothesis was tested and could not be eliminated,” the report said. “The entry door on the north side of the building was unsecure. Entry through this door provided access to the
entire building, there are no surveillance cameras facing this side of the building therefore it could not be determined if an individual or individuals entered the building and ignited this fire.”

The report said an accelerant detection canine, named Dream, was brought in to search for the possible presence of ignitable fluids, however, the report said “she exhibited no positive alerts for the presence of ignitable liquids.”

Investigators also couldn’t rule out whether an electrical malfunction was to blame.

“Although the computers, microwave, coffee pot, printers and other electrical appliances were reported by this unit’s occupants to be outside the area of origin for this fire, these items were not recovered due to the extensive damage to the building as a result of this fire,” the report continues.

Investigators were able to determine the fire originated from the west end of the building, near where Shekarchi and his two siblings’ law offices were located. It did not start outside the building, the report stated.

When investigators spoke with Shekarchi and asked him whether he believed it was intentionally set, “he stated in his law practice he had problems with critics of a medical waste disposal facility he had been representing.”

“He also stated as the speaker he has many critics, but this all seemed part of politics,” the report continued.

Shekarchi previously told 12 News he had no reason to believe the fire was intentionally set.

“I’m going to let the professionals do their jobs,” he said at the time.

The commercial building, located off Route 2 on College Hill Road, housed several office units. Investigators determined the building is a total loss.

No one was inside the building when the fire broke out, and the report said the last person to leave the building for the night did so roughly an hour before the fire was first reported.

While speaking with investigators, the report said that person did not notice anything suspicious upon leaving.

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