Still no cause found for fire

In­ves­ti­ga­tors be­lieve it started in mid­dle of his­toric home

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Doug Walker [email protected]

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.

Pho­tos by Doug Walker

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.

Ira Levy

/ Doug Walker

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.

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