City Looking At ‘Legal Options’ Following Crawford Fire

Firefighters are pictured Nov. 16 at the former Crawford Furniture building on Allen Street in Jamestown. The city is looking to hold the building’s owner accountable. P-J photo by Timothy Frud

City officials are planning on holding the owner of the Crawford Furniture building accountable for neglecting to properly maintain the property prior to the major fire.

Despite the city’s warnings and an ongoing legal fight with the owner of the Crawford Furniture building, located at 1061 Allen St., the property had a variety of hazardous chemicals and products that presented an increased public safety risk during the fire Nov. 16.

“We are continuing to work towards getting the owner to be held accountable,” said Crystal Surdyk, city director of development. “He is due in court on Dec. 16. We are continuing to pursue every avenue that we have. Legally, we’re investigating what our legal options are, and we are also continuing to work with our federal and state agencies that have been involved for the last year and a half or so.”

While the cause of the fire still has not been released, both Surdyk and City Council President Anthony Dolce, R-Ward II, have explained that city officials are actively investigating the cause of the massive fire.

“There were no utilities to the building, so I mean, obviously there’s suspicion to it, but certainly nothing has been proven at this point,” Dolce said.

The scene in November following a fire at the former Crawford Furniture building. P-J photo by Eric Tichy

Regardless of the cause of the fire, city officials have made it clear that the hazardous contents and unsafe conditions of the building contributed to the fire destroying the building and presenting a public safety concern that caused nearby Artone employees to evacuate the building.

Surdyk said the cleanup process of the building had started before the fire, following the city’s attempts to force the owner to improve the public safety of the property.

“There was a great deal of cleanup that was happening prior to the fire, with regards to removal of identified chemicals and hazardous products that we knew were on site,” she said. “A lot of that had happened and was in the process of happening.”

Unfortunately, while cleanup process of the building started prior to the recent fire, Surdyk said the asbestos abatement of the property and demolition the city had been pursuing had not been completed.

“It just adds another layer of complexity to it, but we will continue to pursue the owner and hold them accountable in every way that we can,” she said.

As city officials continue to investigate the cause of the fire and hold the owner of the property accountable for the unsafe conditions of the Allen St. property, the city is moving forward with plans to initiate the cleanup process of the property. Surdyk said a fence was installed Tuesday around the remains of the building in the interest of public safety.

“The cleanup process is going to be a long one,” she said. “There’s a whole lot of moving parts to it, and we’ve got to make sure that we coordinate with federal and state agencies, just to make sure that everything is done properly with public safety, first and foremost.”


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