I-Team 10 Follow Up: Solving the Holiday Inn Fire

Posted at: 11/14/2013 4:50 PM
Updated at: 11/14/2013 5:53 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

The chief of the Greece Police Department says he is more encouraged than ever that they may solve a the 1979 Holiday Inn fire that killed 10 people.

Chief Todd Baxter sat down with I-Team 10, two weeks after detectives searched the Ridge Road Fire Station looking for evidence. The search was the first sign of activity we've seen in a long time since police re-opened the case two years ago.

Chief Baxter is encouraged because he says they found evidence they're interested in and he now put their chances of solving this cold case at 50%. Chief Baxter says they got a boost after searching the Ridge Road Fire Station late last month, discovering evidence inside.

It was 35 years ago on November 26, 1978 at 2:30 a.m. when fire swept through the hotel, which was full of sleeping guests.Ten people died that night. The fire was ruled an arson. It has remained unsolved. 

The Ridge Road Fire Station that was recently searched is headed by Greece Fire Chief Harold "Bud" Phillips. Phillips was a young firefighter who was off-duty the night the Holiday Inn went up in flames and was the first to report it. Police have called him a person of interest in the case. 

Baxter would not say what they found during their recent search that has him so optimistic, but did call the evidence useful pieces of the puzzle.

Greece Police Chief Todd Baxter said, "They did find evidence and they're excited about it. I think that's a positive thing and a lot of people will be, like, 'how does that make sense? What would be there for 35 years?' And it might not be what you and I were looking for when we went there, but it might be something that's relevant when you put the totality of the investigation."

Baxter has said that Phillips is someone they definitely want to interview. But Phillips says that, as of today, they has still not asked to speak with him.

In a recent email to I-Team 10 when asked about the search of his firehouse, Phillips said his office continues to cooperate and added," I have reiterated to our people that if they ever find themselves in the same situation that I did 35 years ago, I expect they will do the same as I did and not worry about doing the right thing."