Investigation of downtown fire begins

By Layron Livingston - bio - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

Fire crews and police are working to secure the site of the fire that scorched part of downtown Tyler.

They will be bringing in temporary fencing to surround the area, all to make ready for some heavy equipment.

Officials expect the investigation to last well into the week. As far as trying to find out what and why this happened goes, they tell me it's a hurry up and wait situation.

Everybody from electrical engineers, forensic chemists, arson experts, to fire experts are on their way. Monday night, Tyler and Smith County fire crews were in full attack mode. Smoke and flames were shooting into the air and at times blacking out downtown Tyler. A day later, the extent of the damage was clear.

"The scene is just too fragile to get in right now and take a good look," explained Clay Alexander with ATF. "We're going to bring in heavy equipment, tractors, bulldozers, cranes, all types of stuff. That's a service ATF will provide to the city, free of charge."

They will be joining the ladder truck that is still on-site, putting out the hotspots.

"It may take the rest of today to get those completely extinguished," said Jeff Akin with the tyler fire department.

"We're going to do a safety assessment first and stabilize the structure and then we'll be able to go in and look at the building and try and come up with a cause

Reports came in Monday around 7:30pm that smoke was coming from the upper floor of 113 North Spring Street where the fire may have originated.

It quickly spread to neighboring structures. Akin said that exterminators were in the buildings earlier that day, but at this time, nothing is certain.

"They were here yesterday," said Akin. "I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the fire or not."

He hope the front of the building can be saved.

"Until we get inside tomorrow, we won't really know what we're up against."

Officials tell said it will be a pretty daunting task. Of course, they're glad the fire didn't spread any further, creating an even bigger mess. They said it could be a pretty expensive clean up and investigative process.

Officials said that because of the historic building involved, and the estimated damage loss being more than a million dollars, and other criteria, ATF will be incurring all of the cost involved.