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American fire cause elusive
Investigators still viewing evidence, Anderson says
The site of the former American of Martinsville plant is shown Wednesday after having been damaged in a fire March 3. Martinsville Fire Marshal Ted Anderson said the cause of the blaze is not yet known, but investigators continue to examine the evidence.(Bulletin photo by Mike Wray
The cause of the March 3 fire that destroyed much of the former American of Martinsville plant remains elusive, but Martinsville Fire Marshal Ted Anderson is confident that the mystery will be solved.
Since the fire occurred, Anderson said, he and insurance company investigators have visited the plant at least a dozen times to collect evidence.
Now, Anderson and investigators are examining what they collected. They have no immediate plans to return to the site at Aaron and Broad streets.
“The property has been condemned,” Anderson said. “That’s normal for any fire scene that’s uninhabitable. At this point ... we do believe we are done with the scene.”
He added that neighboring Askin Street, which was closed to through traffic during the investigation process, was re-opened about a month ago.
For the foreseeable future, he said, the plan is to continue studying the evidence and reaching out to the community for additional information, including pictures and videos of the fire, particularly in its early stages.
“We haven’t shut that door yet,” Anderson said. “We’ve had fires that have been years and years old that we still get calls on. Especially with one of this magnitude, this could be something that goes on for years.”
Although the investigation is a slow process, Anderson said he has not lost faith that the cause of the fire eventually will be found.
“I haven’t given up yet,” he said. “It takes a lot for me to give up. I do feel comfortable in saying that we will have a resolution, hopefully sooner than later.”
The fire started shortly before 5:30 p.m. March 3 and burned quickly. The amount of damage previously has been estimated at $516,000.
The blaze damaged the majority of the sprawling facility. Multiple area fire departments working together managed to save a loading dock at the site, a warehouse full of furniture, other commercial businesses on Aaron Street and several homes on neighboring Emmette Street.
According to previous Bulletin reports, Robin Hiatt of Patrick County and JEB Stuart Auction Services LLC bought the building in mid-February.
Anyone with information regarding the fire, including photos and videos, is asked to call Anderson at 403-5202.