BRATTLEBORO -- The owner of the Elliot Street building destroyed in a fire last month said the structure must be demolished.
Bob Remy-Powers told the Reformer his insurance company made the call about one week after the fire struck on Wednesday, Oct. 16, and left 17 people homeless, but unharmed. He said he is in complete agreement and, though there are a lot of uncertainties about specifics, demolition of the Erwin Building at 214 Elliot St. could start within a couple of weeks.
"The only thing definite is that the building was so damaged that it has to be completely removed," he said Monday. "The building is so damaged it wouldn't make sense to try to reconstruct it. I've done a lot of big renovation projects and this is too damaged."
Remy-Powers, who has owned the building since 1992, when it became one of his renovation projects, said he is not sure if another structure will be built in its place.
"It's little unpredictable at this point," he said.
A permit of demolition was issued by the Brattleboro Zoning Administrator's Office on Wednesday, Oct. 23, and is good for one year. No more is needed from the town for demolition, however, state permits may still be required and it is Remy-Powers' responsibility to contact state agencies to find out what must be obtained. Remy-Powers must also contact Jan Anderson, the secretary of Interim Town Manager Patrick Moreland, to coordinate street-closing police coverage during demolition before it begins.
The permit also mandates that the site be graded or its foundation be filled to avoid creating a nuisance or safety hazard.
The Brattleboro Fire Department is still investigating the three-alarm blaze that took 60 firefighters from 12 towns nearly 12 hours to extinguish. The fire tore through the three-story, seven-unit building, sending jet-black smoke (visible from Western Avenue) billowing into the air and attracting scores of mesmerized spectators.
The Vermont State Police is helping the fire department after Chief Michael Bucossi requested assistance. Bucossi previously told the Reformer it is not unusual for a small fire department to get help from the state police for causes involving structures like the Erwin Building. He said his team started a preliminary investigation and conducted "a bunch of interviews" but could not develop the information necessary to proceed.
Bucossi added, however, that nothing has been found to suggest the fire was suspicious in nature.
Remy-Powers said Bucossi and his department have handled the whole situation wonderfully.
He also said he set up a bank account, called the Elliot Street Fire Relief Fund, at the TD Bank location on Main Street. Jeff Lapointe, the bank's assistant manager, last week told the Reformer anyone can walk in with cash or a check they would like to go toward helping the 17 victims (which included children) and tellers will assist them in the process of getting it into the account.
Local businesses, such as Love It Twice and Whippersnappers, are also accepting donations for the victims and Dot Lenhart and Cindy Coble started a Elliot Street Fire Fund page on Facebook.
Remy-Powers told the Reformer the building was built in 1910 and is believed to have once been a living house for employees of Estey Organ Company.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.