Published Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 | 10:47 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 | 6:01 p.m.
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Fire at Islamic construction site
Despite federal agents joining the investigation into an overnight fire at a construction site for a funeral home and cemetery to serve the Las Vegas Islamic community, the leader of the Islamic Society of Nevada said he didn't believe the fire was related to religious bias.
“I don’t think it was a hate crime,” said Khalid Khan, president of the society. “It’s my opinion.”
The fire at 1 a.m. Wednesday at 4425 E. Cartier Ave., near Lamb Boulevard and Carey Avenue in the northeast valley, brought a two-alarm response from the Clark County Fire Department.
Fire Chief Bertral Washington said the department was investigating alongside Metro Police, the FBI, and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The investigative team, however, has not determined the cause, he said.
Fire officials notified the ATF, a standard procedure when a fire occurs at a potential house of worship.
An undisclosed family trust was building the mortuary and cemetery, which the Islamic Society of Nevada intended to use, county spokeswoman Stacey Welling said.
The fire caused $1.5 million in damage to the 10,500-square-foot structure, which was in the wood-frame stage of construction prior to the blaze, Washington said. Only damaged steel beams were visible on the site Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators determined the building’s utilities had not been completed prior to the blaze, Washington said.
“It was under construction,” said Khan, who noted the funeral home and cemetery were scheduled to be completed this summer.
Fire officials declined to speculate possible causes, stopping short of calling it an arson investigation.
“We never go into a fire (investigation) thinking this was an accident,” Washington said, explaining the department’s philosophy for investigating all fires.
Khan said he was told investigators have a few leads and that arson has not been ruled out.
Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins, who represents the area of the fire, issued a statement: “First, I would like to thank the 60 firefighters who battled this fire and express my relief that no one was injured. ... I am very concerned about what happened here. I have full faith and confidence in the investigators from the Clark County Fire Department and our partnering agencies to determine what caused this fire.”
Authorities ask anyone with information about the fire to contact Crime Stoppers at (702) 385-5555 or visit www.crimestoppersofnv.com.