JAMESTOWN, NY (WNY News Now) – Following the massive fire at a former furniture factory in Jamestown on Wednesday, city officials are looking ahead to what will likely be an extensive cleanup process.
“When they first arrived, they found the building heavily involved with fire on multiple floors. It looked like it was coming out of multiple locations in the building,” says Chief Coon.
Crews brought in heavy equipment to help demolish the former Crawford Manufacturing Complex, after a massive fire broke out on Wednesday.
“We’re gonna obviously have to start pulling some of the building apart in order to fully extinguish it. There’s a lot of debris, the debris field is large as you can see. Certainly it’s dangerous to go in there and try to walk around or move anything around by hand,” says Coon.
The location was deemed structurally unsafe and on verge of a “catastrophic collapse” earlier this year by Jamestown’s Department of Development.
In fact, the agency’s Director Crystal Surdyk took legal action against the owner, in an attempt to address the issue.
“It was an old furniture factory so there were a few floors that still had wood, furniture parts, solvents, furniture refinishing materials, things that you would expect to see in a furniture factory. So part of that effort a year ago was to take an inventory, what materials there might be that could be hazardous. We did that, we’ve continued to work with the EPA and the DEC and the owner as well on having those materials removed from the building,” says Surdyk.
Before the fire, the goal was to either rehab or demolish the building. Ironically, the owner was due in court this Friday.
Many remember the building’s prime, like Susan Gullotti Bishop, whose father was the plant manager at Crawford Manufacturing. She reminisces about the smell of the saw dust when she would visit her father.
“He started out here as a young man after the Korean War in his early twenties. He started out just as a regular laborer here. You know, he worked his way up, became a superintendent here. I just remember the stories of him learning from some of the old timers. The people that he made connections with here that taught him things,” says Bishop.
Over the years, the building fell into disrepair. The discovery of asbestos slowed hope for any renovation. So far, no chemical hazards have posed a risk to public health and safety, following the blaze.
“They’ve done some testing to the water, to the air, they’ve done some air monitoring and we expect that that will continue as long as the fire continues to burn and we continue to contain the site and start clean up,” assures Surdyk.
One way to prevent fires like this, according to officials, is to keep them occupied.
“We’ve got some policies in the works that would disincentivize property owners to just keep their properties vacant and not get tenants in them or occupy them themselves. That’s a vacant property ordinance. Holding owners accountable for just sitting on property and not maintaining and willfully neglecting them,” says Surdyk.