Key evidence to be tested in Petersburg warehouse fire

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) – What caused a massive warehouse fire in Petersburg? Nearly seven months after the blaze fire investigators expect to have an answer to that question this month.

The early morning fire gutted the former Brown and Williamson tobacco building back in July.

Tuesday morning, fire investigators said testing on key evidence collected at the scene is scheduled to take place this month by an independent laboratory, not the state lab.

"An independent lab is needed since we have so many entities that want to be represented and have a stake in the outcome," said Petersburg Fire marshal, Chief Rufus Atkins.

Chief Rufus says his office, along with the building owners, its representatives, insurance companies and contractors have been working since the blaze broke out -- to select and agree on an independent lab and a date for testing. It's a process that has taken months.

"This is standard, yes. In a major loss like you have here where thousands or millions of dollars -- that type of situation -- that's not uncommon because all interested parties want to be represented there so they can see the testing and how it came about," said Atkins.

In September, an insurance investigator determined the cause of the fire was due to a lighting strike but the fire department is waiting for lab results before announcing a cause.

"We're not dragging our feet. I can tell you that," said Rufus.

Work on the $100 million mixed use project is on schedule.

The building that took the brunt of the fire damage is expected to be complete this year.

Reconstruction on the building got underway late last month. Right now, the fire department has the cause of the fire listed as undetermined.

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