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BFD Launches Probe Into Largest Fire in 25 Years

BFD Launches Probe Into Largest Fire in 25 Years

Firefighters investigated the ruins of a warehouse in Roxbury, where bricks attest to the building’s partial collapse during the blaze. [AP | Boston Globe]

Boston Globe via YellowBrix

August 23, 2010

Pettaway ordered all his firefighters to pull back at least 75 feet from the building, fearing it would collapse. And about 90 seconds later, one side of the building fell in, he said.

“The only goal is to not get anybody hurt,’’ he said. “God was smiling on us.’’

About five minutes later, another side of the building collapsed.

Pettaway said footage from a security camera at a nearby waste company indicated the fire may have started near the roof of the structure, but he said that assertion was still preliminary. Officials were still trying to locate footage from other security cameras believed to be in the area.

In early July, Pettaway, a 21-year veteran of the force, said he had walked through a portion of the vacant warehouse on a routine planning mission, to strategize how crews might fight a blaze should one break out. At that time, he said, he saw a warren of brick buildings that seemed to be interconnected and largely vacant.

“I tend myself to be anal’’ about preplanning for fires in large, industrial areas, he said.

Fire officials said yesterday they were also trying to sift through the maze of paperwork on the various buildings’ owners.

A huge “For Sale’’ sign hung from the concrete tower of the building connected to the charred warehouse, with a broker’s number from Home Run Realty. The broker could not be reached.

That 40,000-square-foot building was built in 1910, according to the realty’s listing, and was on the market for $99,900. City records listed the owner as Ice House Realty LLC. The Globe was unable to reach that owner.

Fire officials said they believed that building had been vacant since a fire in 1963.

Maggio said that shortly after he bought his building in 1984, he started having problems with chunks of concrete falling off the tower next door.

By 1999, he said, that building was in such disrepair, the city was in Boston Housing Court trying to get the owners to fix the structure. He said that legal tug of war continued as the building was sold two more times by 2009.

“The only the thing that happened to the building is that they kept nailing for-sale signs on it,’’ Maggio said. “In 2002, the city made the owner put up an awning to protect people from falling concrete.’’