An investigation by the El Paso Fire Marshal’s Office was unable to find the cause of a raging fire that gutted the historic De Soto Hotel last month.
The vacant, 116-year-old building at 309 E. Mills St. in Downtown El Paso had gained a national reputation for being haunted.
The cause of the fire on the evening of Feb. 4 was classified as “undetermined after investigation” and the case has been labeled “closed,” according to an El Paso Fire Marshal’s Office investigative report.
Fire investigators could not eliminate that the fire was caused by “an intentional or reckless human act” nor that it could have been due to “failure of equipment or electrical source,” according to the report.
The hotel was closed and was being prepared for remodeling. The building still had electricity service but gas and water utilities had been cut off since November, the report stated.
More:De Soto Hotel fire see photos, videos of the flames in Downtown
According to the fire investigation report, the hotel’s owner, Rogelio Gonzalez, told investigators that none of the rooms were occupied and that the only people who would enter the building were part of a “ghost tour” that would take place around midnight on certain nights .
Gonzalez reported that there had been homeless people in the past who tried to use the building for shelter, but the entrances had been boarded up or locked to prevent that from happening more recently.
The fire investigations report noted:
- Weather was eliminated as a potential source of the fire.
- Soot deposits on windows indicated the fire originated inside the building.
- The roof had a near total collapse, indicating that interior roof supports could no longer bear the weight of the roof.
- When the first firefighters entered the building they attempted to advance the hoseline to the second floor where they saw the office and stairwell leading from the second to the third floor “fully involved in fire.”
While attempting to extinguish the fire, the incident commander withdrew firefighting crews from within the building because it was deemed unstable, the report stated.
Gonzalez planned to do a $1.2 million renovation of the hotel, according to information presented to El Paso City Council in December, when it approved providing up to $58,636 in tax and fee rebates for the renovation.
Previously:De Soto Hotel fire: Investigation continues into blaze that gutted vacant, historic hotel
Plans called for making the upper floors hotel rooms, and redoing the exterior, including adding “public art,” according to city information.
The De Soto hotel opened as the Great Northern Hotel in 1905, according to newspaper archives.
El Paso history:De Soto started as Great Northern Hotel in 1905, rumored to be haunted
The hotel was rumored for years to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl in the basement and other spirits and was featured in a 2017 episode of the Travel TV channel’s ghost-hunting series “Ghost Adventures.”
Daniel Borunda may be reached at 915-546-6102; email@example.com; @BorundaDaniel on Twitter.