Still no cause found for fire
Investigators believe it started in middle of historic home
Fire investigators still have not been able to pinpoint a cause for the blaze which gutted the historic Towers Place at 313 E. Fourth Ave. early Saturday morning. Investigator Mary Catherine Chewning did say she is still a little concerned that what remains of the front wall, badly bowed out toward the street, may collapse if high winds continue to prevail.
She said the insurance companies she is working with want the building left as it is until the investigation into the cause is completed.
“They’ve got to do what they’ve got to do and I understand that,” said home owner Ira Levy. He said that Brown & Brown was the lead insurance agency.
Chewning said she and Deputy Chief Dean Oswalt tend to believe that the fire started somewhere in the middle of the home, but could not say if that was in the basement or first floor of the home.
“It’s going to be a lengthy investigation due to the amount of damage to the structure,” Chewning said.
At this point, Chewning said she does not believe that arson was involved.
“I have over 600 pictures plus evidence from the house that I have to analyze,” Chewning said. The investigator also said she still has a lot of surveillance video from several of the neighbors homes that she has to review in a bid to find any kind of clue that might help determine exactly what happened.
The home, thought to have been built in the 1870s, is owned by Ira and Libby Levy who have been renovating it for the past two years. Chewning said her information is that Levy had a potential buyer and there had been discussions about the equipment that was going to be put in the kitchen.
Levy said he was negotiating final details of what he was to do to complete renovation to the house prior to the sale versus what the buyer wanted to do later on their own.
“Nothing had been installed, which was kind of a help for me because I was able to rule out kitchen appliances as an ignition source,” Chewning said. “The location of the kitchen in the house did not match the fire patterns.”
Levy said it is still way too early to know whether or not he and wife Libby will attempt a rebuild. Local architect Bill Jones did have a set of plans for the building from his work with a previous owner who had planned to demolish the original dilapidated structure and then rebuild a look-alike home on the site.
“We took those plans and then Libby did an overlay making changes for what she wanted to do to keep the house in as much of the original historic condition as we could,” Levy said. He estimated the original structure had been added on to at least four different times through the years.
Above: Caution tape surrounds a home at 313 E. Fourth Ave., that was destroyed by fire Saturday morning. A cause for the blaze still has not been established.
Left:A view from the east side of the historic home in the Between the Rivers Historic District.
Below: A view into the charred remains the burned home also reveals a tarp over a neighbor’s home that also sustained significant damage in the blaze on the morning of Jan. 5.
Local fire investigators are worried that more high winds could bring down the bowed-out front wall of the historic home at 313 E. Fourth Ave. which was destroyed by fire Jan. 5. Mary Catherine Chewning in the local Fire Marshal’s office said insurance investigators have asked that nothing be done to the property until additional investigative work is completed.