PENSACOLA, Fla. (AP) — Investigators enlisted a chemical-sniffing dog from the Florida state fire marshal's office on Tuesday to help determine if a New Year's blaze at a Pensacola abortion clinic was arson.
The two-story clinic that was gutted by flames early Sunday has been site of violence and protests for more than 30 years.
It was bombed on Christmas Day in 1984, and in 1994 a doctor and a volunteer who escorted patients to and from the clinic were shot to death as they arrived. The gunman, Paul Hill, was executed in 2003.
No one was hurt in Sunday's fire, which was reported around 1 a.m.
The Florida Fire Marshal's Office is heading the investigation, but the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have joined in because of the location of the blaze, said Deborah Cox, spokeswoman for the marshal's office.
"Because of the structure that was involved, because it was an abortion clinic," she said.
A preliminary investigation found that the fire began outside the clinic, Cox said.
Yellow crime scene tape stretched across the front entrance of the charred American Family Planning clinic Tuesday morning. The shell of the building concealed the burned-out interior that could be seen from the back.
Clinic officials did not return phone messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment about the blaze.
The unassuming house-like structure fronts a busy street near a major north Pensacola intersection. Protesters often gather outside the clinic holding anti-abortion signs, Bibles or crosses.
The clinic's nearest neighbors include a largely empty office park well behind it and an auto parts store that is separated from the clinic by a large parking lot. Employees of the auto parts store declined comment Tuesday morning. Investigators said the clinic had not reported any threats or criminal activity recently. The clinic pays for off-duty Pensacola police officers to provide security.
The fire began in heavy fog and firefighters said the building was engulfed by the time they arrived.