Fire Services Director: ‘Too Soon’ to Pinpoint Cause of Blazes

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This photo of the fire at the Zack Zook's building in the early hours of Sunday morning were posted on Facebook. (Facebook photo)
This photo of the fire at the Zack Zook’s building in the early hours of Sunday morning were posted on Facebook. (Facebook photo)
The fire at the Tavern on Waterfront appeared to start on the second floor. (Judi Shimel photo)
The fire at the Tavern on Waterfront appeared to start on the second floor. (Judi Shimel photo)

Investigators with the V.I. Fire Service returned to the scene of two blazes that broke out Sunday morning in Charlotte Amalie.

The storeroom of a restaurant/jazz club and and a commercial property under construction suffered significant damage, according to the managers at both sites.

Both business operators also claim electrical problems were at the root of of fires at Tavern on the Waterfront and a former warehouse next to the V.I. Lottery office near Rothschild Francis Square, problems they say were caused by the Water and Power Authority.

Both Damien Laveda, son of the owners at the jazz club and Zack Zook at the warehouse say there must be some commonality, since the fires took place three blocks away from one another.

Zook and Laveda also said it appeared the may have also started around the same time.

Acting Fire Service Director Darryl George said it’s too soon to tell. George said two separate alerts came into the Hotel Company Fire Station more than two hours apart. The first call came in about the warehouse at 2:04 a.m.; the second – at the jazz club – at 4:27 a.m.

A V.I. Fire Service inspector surveys damage done to Zack Zook's building. (Photo submitted by Zack Zook)
A V.I. Fire Service inspector surveys damage done to Zack Zook’s building. (Photo submitted by Zack Zook)

At the scenes, firefighters encountered heavy smoke from the upper floor of each structure. The warehouse fire took about 45 minutes to be brought under control. The storeroom located in a separate building behind Tavern on the Waterfront took one hour, 10 minutes to quell.

Firefighters returned to the second scene around 10:41 a.m. Sunday morning when the business owners called to report seeing flames on the roof after they arrived to view the damage.

“My mother and I went down to check it out. The main building was fine but there’s a bridge that leads to another building, where we keep all our food, two freezers, a washer dryer, ice machine. The doors were completely ripped off. We had to call the fire department to deal with it again,” Laveda said.

The arson investigation team is looking into the cause of both fires, George said. Laveda said inspectors said they would return Tuesday to further their investigation.

On Monday, Zook stood outside the jalousie doors of his damaged construction site, chatting with neighbors. He said he was satisfied with the follow-up work and felt Fire officials were doing a thorough job in searching for a cause.

“They’re taking it very seriously because two fires broke out at the same time,” Zook said.

At the time the fire occurred, the heavily damaged second floor was unoccupied and was being refurbished with hopes of opening an art center.

Sunday's blaze destroyed the contents of Zook's upper floor, but the structural integrity of the building appears not to have been damaged. (Photo submitted by Zack Zook)
Sunday’s blaze destroyed the contents of Zook’s upper floor, but the structural integrity of the building appears not to have been damaged. (Photo submitted by Zack Zook)

“We were about 80 percent done with the construction. We were completely wiped out,” Zook said. He said it appeared a small refrigerator on the second floor was the place where the fire started.

He said power surges were common in the area. A supermarket a few feet from his art space had an electrician in on Sunday. When Zook stopped by, he said the market’s manager said some of the commercial refrigerators stopped working overnight.

While about two blocks away and to the north, off Main Street, the manager of the Side Street Pub said they came to work Sunday morning and found their refrigerators had been knocked out.

Pub manager Chuck Perkins said he plans to install surge protectors soon. He too said the problem is related to power surges.

WAPA Communications Director Jean Greaux said the utility had no unusual events over the weekend.

“I know nothing about any unusual occurrences involving the Water and Power Authority,” Greaux said. “There’s nothing unusual that occurred with the system at the time of the fires. The Fire Service will make a final determination.”

Meanwhile, the fire service director said it’s “way too soon,” to declare a cause for the two Sunday morning fires.

Original Source: https://stjohnsource.com/2019/03/13/fire-services-director-too-soon-to-pinpoint-cause-of-blazes/