BY KEN LITTLE
Investigators are proceeding with deliberate speed as they uncover facts about two fires that occurred at adjacent vacant buildings on West Depot Street last month.
The first fire, on Oct. 19, gutted a vacant two-story building at 306-308 W. Depot St. The second, on the night of Oct. 21, heavily damaged a vacant two-story building at 310 W. Depot St.
"This is two totally separate and distinctive fires. They have nothing to do with each other," Greeneville Fire Chief Mark Foulks said Thursday.
While the cause and points of origin of both fires have not been pinpointed yet, both are considered suspicious in origin, investigators have said.
The first fire, at 306-308 W. Depot St., owned by American Patriot Bank, burned through the roof and destroyed the two-story building.
The structure most recently housed an exterminating business, George's Exterminating Co., Inc., and Craven Ink, a tattoo parlor.
The fire-damaged walls were torn down for safety reasons after the fire was extinguished.
The two-story building at 310 W. Depot St., which housed the former Depot Star Grill on the first floor, sustained heavy fire damage to the second floor.
The building is unstable, and investigators had to collect evidence using a Greeneville Public Works Department bucket truck positioned over the structure.
"All investigation was conducted from overhead because the building is not safe to enter," Foulks said.
No one was authorized to be in either building, Foulks said. Investigators have reviewed videotapes of areas surrounding both, he noted.
The state Bomb and Arson Investigation Section of the state Division of Fire Prevention is assisting in the investigation into the 310 W. Depot St. fire.
Greeneville Fire Marshal Alan Shipley collected samples of material from the second floor of the building, which remains standing. The samples are being processed at the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation lab, Shipley said Thursday.
"Evidence is being taken in the second fire and evaluated at this time," Shipley said.
While collection of the physical evidence from both buildings is complete, "They continue to be off limits (to the public) and under Greeneville Fire Department control," Foulks said.
Anyone who gains access to the building at 310 W. Depot St. or the other fire site will be charged with criminal trespass, Foulks said.
Debris from both fire sites could be removed soon, he stated.
"We will be in contact with both property-owners." Foulks said.
J.T. Long, owner of the building at 310 W. Depot St., said after the fire there that the building was constructed in the early 1900s. He said the second floor had once been a hotel. Long said he was in the process of renovating the kitchen.
Anyone with information about the fires is asked to contact the Greeneville Fire Marshal's Office at 787-6183 or the Greeneville Police Department at 639-7111.