OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The state Fire Marshal’s Office has determined that a fire Tuesday night at an unoccupied motel in Old Orchard Beach was arson.

Sgt. Joel Davis, a state fire investigator, said Wednesday night that the former Americana Motel at 1 Heath St. was unoccupied, had no electrical service and was slated for demolition. Its owners intended to use the property as a parking lot, Davis said.

“It was an arson fire started by someone who wasn’t authorized to be in the building,” Davis said.

He said his team of investigators has not determined whether the fire was started accidentally by someone living in the building illegally or by a person who intended to commit arson. There are no suspects in the case.

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Davis said.

Old Orchard Beach firefighters were weeks away from receiving final approval from the state and town to conduct a series of training fires at the hotel when the blaze was reported around 9 p.m. Tuesday, Fire Chief Rick Plummer said Wednesday.

A neighbor described the fire as looking like a large bonfire. The Americana had 36 rooms.

Plummer, standing outside the burnt wreckage, said the fire “was a surprise, but it was also a vacant building. Sometimes the doors are open.”

The fire was reported by a tenant at a neighboring condominium complex around 9 p.m. and it took firefighters about three hours to fully extinguish it, Plummer said.

It had been about two weeks since firefighters had walked through the building in preparation for the training burns. Some firefighters were injured Tuesday night from slips and falls while battling the fire. The most serious injury was a sprained ankle, Plummer said.

The building’s owner, George Kerr, was also at the destroyed building Wednesday. He bought the long-unused building months ago, and submitted plans to demolish it and use the land as parking space for neighboring properties that he owns.

Plummer said Kerr had recently suspended the insurance on the building, and it had little value because it was soon to be demolished. The property is within walking distance of the town’s beach and amusement park.

Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at:

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