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Homeless man faces charges for Comfort Suites fire in Astoria

Burke allegedly removed a plug from a gas meter outside the hotel
By Jack Heffernan

The Daily Astorian

Published on March 1, 2018 10:43AM

Last changed on March 1, 2018 10:46AM

Dozens of guests were evacuated in September after a gas leak and fire at the Comfort Suites in Astoria.

Katie Frankowicz/The Daily Astorian

Dozens of guests were evacuated in September after a gas leak and fire at the Comfort Suites in Astoria.

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A homeless man has been indicted in connection with a gas leak and fire at the Comfort Suites in Astoria last September.

Matthew Jay Burke, 26, allegedly removed a plug from a gas meter near the hotel. Natural gas eventually leaked into and outside of the building on Lief Erikson Drive, causing a spark outside.

Flames from the fire extended into the laundry room. The fire was extinguished after a water pipe burst and a ceiling sprinkler activated, causing several inches of water to flood the ground floor. The incident caused the hotel to temporarily close.

Dozens of guests from 75 rooms were evacuated and transferred to other hotels in Astoria and Warrenton. No injuries were reported.

Burke was indicted in late January but has been held in a California jail for a separate probation violation.

It is unclear whether Burke intended to cause a fire at the hotel or simply damage property. He has been charged with eight counts of recklessly endangering another person and two counts of first-degree criminal mischief.

“Frankly, the motel was full,” Clatsop County Deputy District Attorney Ron Brown said. “The risk to the public could’ve been pretty substantial.”

Burke has yet to be transferred to the Clatsop County Jail, and an arraignment has not been scheduled.



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