Brian Willhide, Jamestown Sun, Published February 23 2012
Electrical problem in tractor believed to be source of Jamestown fire
Fire destroyed the building at 305 First Ave. N., owned by Vining Oil, and damaged the adjacent former Elks building.
“I have no problem indicating that it was an accidental fire. Nothing has led me to suspect otherwise,” Reuther said.
The Associated Press reports Reuther said the fire appears to be linked to an electrical problem with a tractor that was being stored inside the Vining building.
Reuther also said residents near the scene should not be concerned about being in harm’s way.
No official estimate on the amount of damage in either building has been determined.
Monday, Reuther determined there was no additional threat to fire at 6 p.m. He then turned the scene over to the owners — Brad Vining, CEO of Vining Oil, and Allen Huber, owner of the old Elks building — and their respective insurance companies.
Reuther said his involvement with the scene is not entirely finished, as he continues to cooperate with several insurance companies investigating the scene.
Vining said he would not comment about the investigation.
Huber could not be reached for comment for this story.
Tuesday, Reuther said an engineer was on site to review the damage.
“The engineer spent about five hours looking over structural concerns and processing the scene,” he said.
Wednesday, inspectors from an insurance company associated with the old Elks building were on the scene to determine if they would need to bring an engineer there, according to City Engineer Reed Schwartzkopf.
Precautions have now been taken to ensure public safety around the walls of the Vining building.
“The walls are not in very good shape,” Vining said.
The walls are bowing and could collapse at any moment. A chain-linked fence was constructed to protect against any potential collapse.
Reuther said the walls are not structurally sound.
“All that’s really holding those walls up is the weight of the building itself,” he said.
Schwartzkopf said the fencing is secure enough and tall enough such that if those walls were to collapse, it would be contained within the fencing.
Some roads continue to remain closed in northwest Jamestown. Third Street Northwest between First Avenue and Second Avenue Northwest in addition to southbound traffic on First Avenue North from Fourth Street to Third Street Northwest have been closed until further notice, according to a news release from the Jamestown City Engineer’s office.
Schwartzkopf said opening up those roads would depend on the investigation at the old Elks building.
“They (road closures) will remain as is until the folks investigating the old Elks building have given me the OK,” Schwartzkopf said.
The city is also working with officials from the Environmental Health Section of the North Dakota Department of Health concerning contaminants of the fire.
Schwartzkopf said it’s a matter of ensuring that those contaminants are kept from reaching the city’s water supply.
Dennis Fewless, director of the state Division of Water Quality, is working with Schwartzkopf but could not be reached for comment.
Vining told The Sun last Friday that the building contained several 55-gallon barrels of oil, 600 to 700 truck tires and two tractors. The oil and tires contributed to the dense, black smoke the fire produced.
Vining said the contaminants’ danger to the public is “very minimal.”
Schwartzkopf said there is no timetable regarding their investigation with the Health Department.