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Safety issues slow probe of fire
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Fire investigators likely won’t be able to enter the former American of Martinsville plant before the end of this month to try to find the cause of the March 3 blaze that destroyed it, an official said Tuesday.
“It will be two weeks at best before we can get in there” to try to determine what caused the blaze, said Martinsville Fire Marshal Ted Anderson.
He said he spent the majority of Tuesday morning at the scene on Aaron Street with representatives from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). “We talked about hazards at the scene” for investigators and others on the premises, Anderson said.
Before fire investigators can go inside, “we’ve got to go through all the testing from OSHA, do whatever we need to do to make it safe to enter. We also will have to identify any walls we may have to dig out or recreate to ensure a wall doesn’t fall,” he said. “It’s all about safety at this point. Not just ours but everyone else’s, too.”
He added that “OSHA’s involvement is not unusual,” particularly at the scene of an industrial fire.
Also Tuesday, armed security guards arrived at the site to preserve the scene, at least until a temporary fence is constructed, Anderson said. The company that insured the property is paying for the security officers and will find a contractor to build the fence, he added.
“We are not having any problems right now that we know of” with anyone trying to enter the scene, Anderson said. “But having armed security officers and a fence definitely will help preserve the scene and ensure safety while keeping everyone out.”
Aaron Street — which has been closed to traffic since the blaze — probably will remain closed until after the building is demolished, he said.
“Fortunately, it’s not a busy street,” and alternate routes are available, he said.
Anderson has amassed photos and videos from the early stages of the blaze, and he is working to compile all of them before examining them collectively, he said.
Anyone who has pictures or video of the fire scene taken around 5:30 p.m. March 3 is asked to call Anderson at 403-5202.