Jacob's Pillow fire (copy)

The Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow was destroyed in a Nov. 17 blaze. Officials now say the cause will remain “undetermined.”

BECKET — The cause of a devastating Nov. 17 fire that destroyed a performance center at Jacob’s Pillow never will be precisely known, officials now say.

After what it terms an “extensive” probe, the office of the state fire marshal said Tuesday that while officials know where the fire started at the nationally known dance center, its cause remains “undetermined,” in part because the building that burned, the Doris Duke Theatre, was a complete loss.

A fire burns Nov. 17 at the Doris Duke Theatre at Jacob’s Pillow in Becket. The fire destroyed the theater, causing $3 million in losses. No o…

Still, State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey said that two possible sources of ignition were identified: electronic equipment inside a door to the theater, and the possibility that someone tossed away a burning cigarette or other “smoking materials.”

The fire’s origin was traced to either the inside or outside of the patrons’ entrance to the theater. In all, damage was estimated at $3 million. No one was injured in the early-morning fire.

Joining Ostroskey in Tuesday’s statement were Becket Fire Chief Paul Mikaniewicz and Police Chief Kristopher McDonough.

Because a single source of ignition could not be pinned down, Ostroskey said, the cause had to be classified as undetermined under federal standards.

“When we cannot eliminate all but one most likely cause, the standard requires us to classify the fire as undetermined,” he said in a statement.

Efforts to combat the blaze were complicated by inadequate water supply at the site at 358 George Carter Road. Also, the fire alarm system had not been working since Halloween, officials say. That delayed notification to local fire departments.

An analysis cited by the fire marshal’s office said that while the theater’s sprinkler system might have worked for about 30 minutes, water stopped coming through the system after a pump failed. That pump failure also took a fire hydrant out of service. Firefighters had to use a tanker to shuttle water from a pond to the fire scene.

Mikaniewicz said damage was extensive even before crews arrived.

“This fire had a grip on the building before we were even notified of the fire,” he said in Tuesday’s joint statement.

Larry Parnass can be reached at lparnass@berkshireeagle.com and 413-588-8341.