Arson? “I haven’t ruled anything out,” fire inspector says
The question on everybody’s mind as a downtown Lincoln adult novelty store continued to smolder three days after the fire began on Sunday morning: Was it arson?
“I haven’t ruled anything out,” Chief Lincoln Fire Inspector Bill Moody said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. The cause of the blaze – which started in the back of the building — is “very much undetermined,” he said.
While investigators were able to get “some evidence out” of the charred, unstable building, they still need to get into the building to continue the investigation.
He has “very good witnesses” in the firefighters who first responded inside the building, until the second floor “started collapsing” on them.
He called the south side of the building the “area of interest,” but said there’s “tons of debris on it now” because the roof collapsed over it.
However, the building is a safety hazard and engineers don’t want anyone in the building due to the potential for another collapse, which cause structural damage to the building to the west, Moody said.
The city has authorized the building’s demolition perhaps as soon as Friday. The building’s insurance company is flying in a specialty engineer from out of state on Thursday, Moody said, to determine how to take the building down without affecting adjacent buildings.
Once the walls are taken down to a safe level, the investigation can continue – although Moody says the demolition will make the investigation more challenging.
“It’s going to make it a ton more difficult,” he said. “But there’s no other way around it. It does not make my job easier but you sure don’t wanna kill anybody going after a cause. … It has to be done.”
Moody said Lincoln firefighters deserve credit for getting to the fire quickly and preventing more buildings from burning down.
“They really did an outstanding job keeping it to one building,” he said. “Small towns (without professional fire departments) tend to lose town squares, instead of one building.”