Rodney Carress narrowed the cause to an electrical panel in the police chief’s office shorting out, but his official ruling was “undetermined” because there was not enough of the ignition source left to make a full determination, said South Shore Assistant Fire Chief Charley Farley.
“But that ruled out everything else as the cause of the fire,” Farley said.
Investigators with the state Fire Marshal’s Office, as well as those with the state Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms office.
Quick action by the South Shore Volunteer Fire Department made it possible to rescue all city records, as well as county records in the branch office of the Greenup County Clerk that operated in the west end of the building.
All police records were destroyed in the fire, which was discovered shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday by Police Chief Bill Sword when he entered the office.
County Clerk Pat Hieneman and South Shore Mayor Cheryl Moore both said their computers, which were rescued, were later found to be inoperable.
“We’ll have to buy new computers,” Hieneman said. “There was too much smoke damage. But we got all of our inventory, our vehicle title work and all that.”
Hieneman, Moore and Deputy County Clerk Kathy Lester, who operated the branch office in the city building, all showed up to help carry records out, even as firefighters fought the blaze.
“When they called me at home, I expected to find nothing left, because these trailer fires go fast, but the fire department did a great job,” Hieneman said.
Farley said three trucks and 17 firefighters responded to the call. Fire Chief Kenneth Taylor had said Tuesday that flames were shooting out the windows of the east end of the building, where police headquarters were located.
The east end was gutted by the fire, with the middle and west end sections sustaining smoke and water damage.
“We lost two rooms on the east end,” Farley said.
He said firefighters, cautious at first because ammunition in the police department started going off, quickly knocked the flames down, then concentrated on fires inside the walls and ceiling.
At an emergency meeting of the city commission Wednesday night, the Board of City Commissioners voted unanimously to rent a building on Main Street as temporary offices.
“We hope to get phone lines in and maybe have it set up Monday where citizens can come in and pay sewer bills or whatever,” Moore said.
The building, at 500 Main St., two doors from WOKE Joy-FM Radio’s studio, is owned by Ron LeMaster, who is renting it to the city for $600 a month.
Hieneman said the county will also reopen the branch of the clerk’s office there as soon as possible.
“We will start back up with the city wherever it is. Frankfort has said it may take five or six days to get the computers lined up and set back up again,” she said.
Moore indicated the company carrying insurance on the city building has ruled it a total loss and the city is expecting no holdup in collecting.
“What we are hoping to do is to build a new building back on the site of the one destroyed,” Moore said.
G. SAM PIATT can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.