From the August 10, 2006 edition of The East Haven Courier.

 

 

 

Photo by Elizabeth Albright

 

Fire at Catering Hall No Hindrance to Renovation Plans

 

-Jason J. Marchi, Courier Correspondent

 

EAST HAVEN, CT - Shortly after 2 a.m. on Tuesday, August 1, a fire damaged the former Candlelight by the Sea catering hall located on Cosey Beach Avenue directly across from the East Haven Town Beach. The fire, which was battled by rotating shifts of both East Haven and Branford firefighters because of the extremely hot weather, should not delay plans to convert the town owned building into a conference center and history museum of the Momauguin area.

"I don't think [the fire] will disrupt the [renovation] plans," stated Mayor Joseph Maturo. "Hopefully, if anything, it might put [the renovation] on a faster track. The parts that were damaged were already going to be rehabbed."

According to Building Official Jim Bassett, the building experienced no structural damage from the fire. "The brunt of the damages were a lot of interior finishes," stated Bassett. "Most of the building is non-combustable construction. The masonry exterior, interior bearing columns, and roof structure are all non-combustable. Above the steal bar joists is a metal roof deck, and then a layer of insulation board, and then a rubber or Bitumen roof."  

The second floor apartments on the western side of the building, which where most heavily damaged by the fire, were planned for removal in the rehab project, as well as the roof.

The building was purchased last year by the town for $1.9 million was fully insured. "It's too early to tell how much money we will be getting from the insurance company," said Maturo.

ARSON WAS NOT THE CAUSE

According to Fire Chief Douglas Jackson, a K9 unit was brought to the scene and the dog found no sign of an accelerant. "Arson was not involved," said Jackson. "It was a non-suspicious fire."

"I was at the scene that night," Maturo stated. "From two o'clock in the morning, until the fire was extinguished." After the Mayor went home to change he returned to find that the State Fire Marshall and the State Inspector were already at the site. Since the Mayor is an ex-firefighter himself, he had a detailed conversation with the State Fire Marshall regarding the cause of the fire. "Since there was no reason to suspect arson, they were learning toward electrical," said Maturo.

Power was still supplied to the building since little natural light reached the interior. "When design committee members and other officials need to gain access to the building the interior lights have to be used," according to the Mayor.

The Mayor, who is also an electrician by training, said it is always easy to say a fire is caused by an electrical problem when you can't find any other cause. "But the investigation is not over yet, so hopefully they will determine exactly what caused the fire," said Maturo.

The Mayor said he was upset that the building caught fire. "What I'm pleased about is that it wasn't arson," said Maturo. "That would be very disturbing if the dog had sniffed some kind of accelerant, because that means someone would have gotten inside the building and it was locked up. We've always made sure the building is locked up."

The white masonry block building is still secure. The only visible sign of a fire is the charred rear door on the north side of the building.

SKATEBOARD PARK IN RENOVATION PLANS

According to Maturo, for the past couple of years the young people of the community have requested a skateboard park be built in town. "After seeing the plans and the drawings of how the building will be rehabbed, I asked my engineer if he could incorporate a skateboard park, similar to what Branford has."

The biggest problem for the town regarding a skateboard park has been insurance. "The liability on something of that nature would probably be extreme," said Maturo. "The other problem was location, and on what portion of town property would it be most appropriate to build a skateboard park. So we are hoping we might be able to incorporate a small skate park area in [conference center] complex."

 
 

 

 

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Copyright 1988-2006 by Jason J. Marchi. All Rights Reserved. No portion of the text of these pages may be reprinted or stored in any form whatsoever without the express written permission of the copyright holder, except when quoted briefly for purposes of review.