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Local News

January 18, 2011

Hubbard Hall deemed dangerous

ELIZABETHTOWN — A week after a fire tore through historic Hubbard Hall, the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.

County and state fire investigators have determined the structure is too dangerous to enter and are awaiting removal of the charred pieces to finish their work.

COLLAPSE POSSIBLE

Essex County Emergency Services Director Donald Jaquish said the partially collapsed slate roof, its support structure and weight-bearing walls are damaged throughout the building

"All that weight is now down onto the first and second floor. If you move things, you could have a collapse. We know the floor had to be reinforced several years ago, and we don't know the condition of supports underneath."

The next option is for the owner's insurance company to move in with heavy equipment and start taking what is left of a sprawling, three-story building apart in pieces.

"It is structurally too unsound for anybody to go in and start digging or moving anything," Jaquish said Tuesday.

"We would have to have heavy crane equipment to take it down layer by layer, and the county is not going to do that, at this point.

"The next option was for the owner's insurance company to undertake the investigation. And apparently they don't want to pay for the heavy equipment. It's their decision, not ours."

The building has been posted by the Town of Elizabethtown Code Enforcement Office, pending an order by the Town Council to require the owner to take it down and remove the debris.

CAUSE UNDETERMINED

Thus far, investigators have not determined the cause of the fire.

"At some point, they will be taking the building down, and when they do that, we will send someone in," Jaquish said.

"It could be accidental or it could be deliberate, we don't know," he said of the cause. "We're still conducting an investigation, doing the normal background checks we usually do.

"I'm sure the insurance company will take a statement from the owner. We'll wait until the building has to be taken down by a contractor, and we'll be there when they do it."

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