SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

January 16, 2014

Fire investigation ends with no cause found

LAWRENCE — The search for what sparked the inferno that destroyed a 130-year-old mill in just two hours Monday ended at dusk yesterday, when investigators left the South Canal Street site without disclosing what they found, if anything.

Acting fire Chief John Marsh said the team from the state Department of Fire Services called him about 5 p.m. to report their work was done, allowing the city to begin issuing the building code violations against the owner that will be a first step in demolishing the teetering three-story brick walls that are the last remains of the industrial landmark.

“I don’t know if they found a cause,” Marsh said. “But they’re through with what they need the site for.”

State Police Sgt. Don Bossi, who led the team of investigators, could not be reached for comment last night.

From the beginning, the investigation focused on an area just inside the front door, where witnesses who reported the fire about 4:30 Monday afternoon and the first firefighters to arrive said they saw the first glow.

Throughout the day yesterday, a cluster of state investigators and local firemen dug through the scorched and sopping pile of the bricks, beams, roofing and other debris that collapsed to the ground floor inside the door as the fire raged. The effort was aided by a backhoe owned by a friend of a city firefighter who donated the service, which otherwise would have been paid for by an insurance company had the building been insured.

The next bill — for demolition — could be as much as $500,000 and is less likely to be covered by volunteers, Building Commissioner Peter Blanchette said.

Because the building was uninsured and its owner, David Padellaro, already owes the city $5.4 million in unpaid property taxes, interest and other fees, the city may be faced with leaving at least part of the charred eyesore standing just off Broadway at a gateway to the city, or paying for the demolition itself and placing one more lien onto the stack that already exists on the property.

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