DALTON, Ga. — After spending the day digging through charred rubble at Peacock Alley, investigators had removed several items for further testing but were not ready to release a cause for the fire that destroyed several businesses nearly two weeks ago.
Investigators still were working at the downtown site at 6 p.m. Friday and were prepared to stay as late as they needed to complete their work, Dalton Fire Chief Bruce Satterfield said.
“We are comfortable with the area of origin and have taken evidence from the building that will need to be tested by an electrical engineer,” he said.
Satterfield declined to say what items had been removed.
An Oct. 9 fire destroyed the historic Hamilton Street building known as Peacock Alley Antique Gallery and Specialty Shops, which included about eight businesses. Several adjacent businesses either were destroyed or had extensive damage.
No official damage estimate has been released, but Satterfield has said it likely is more than $1 million.
Investigators believe the fire began in the southeast corner of the building near the Peacock Alley Cafe, Satterfield said late Friday. There were two businesses and a bathroom in that area, he said.
The fire department delayed a full-scale investigation of the fire until all the insurance agencies involved could be present. With so many businesses, it took time to bring them all together, Satterfield said.
About 20 private investigators, attorneys and insurance adjusters, as well as fire investigators, attended a briefing Friday morning to hear about what firefighters saw when they arrived on the scene.
As they were briefed, employees with Diamond Environmental Cleaning used a Bobcat to clear a path into the rubble of wooden beams and walls. Sections of Hamilton Street were closed off as they worked.
Later in the day, investigators sifted through layers of debris around the area where the fire started.
A private investigator will do the testing, Satterfield said.
He said he is not sure how long the testing will take. Investigators will wait to release an official cause of the fire until then, he said.
Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...