Berlin train station fire investigation in ‘holding pattern’ more than six months later

Berlin train station fire investigation in ‘holding pattern’ more than six months later


BERLIN — More than six months after a fire destroyed the historic train depot, the investigation is again on hold.

Fire Marshal Steve Waznia said Thursday he was waiting for paperwork and cleanup procedures because the site is contaminated with lead paint and other hazards.

“We were hoping to get in there a few weeks ago,” he said. “We’re just in a holding pattern.

“In all my years of investigating fires, this is taking a lot longer than normal,” Waznia added.

He said a private investigator was hired from Engineering, Fire and Environmental Services (EFI Global) out of Massachusetts. The investigator informed Waznia Thursday there was no start date to access the site.

The station was deemed a total loss after the fire on Dec. 21, 2016. The building, owned by Amtrak and leased by the state Department of Transportation (DOT), was demolished in February, partly to allow investigators safe access to the site, said John Bernick, assistant DOT rail administrator.

Some work was done on the investigation, but the site has mostly sat untouched.

Last month, non-contaminated bricks were moved to a secure location for safekeeping. The town is hoping to preserve other items for historic reasons once the site is cleaned.

Some of the items include wrought iron from the benches, radiators, and a safe.

Security video from The Italian Club on Harding Street shows the fire from beginning to end. The video has been sent for further evaluation and enhancement.

Waznia has said nothing to date indicates the fire was intentionally set. It is still believed to have started in the north end of the building on the first floor.

Several people at a Historical Society discussion about memories of the station Wednesday night expressed frustration and confusion over the lack of a finding on the cause of the fire.

The future of the site was also discussed.

“Nobody wants to see it paved over,” said Lorraine Stub, Historical Society secretary.

A petition started circulating in January to rebuild the station, though Stub said financially that was likely not possible now.

“I would like to see a small history museum there with pictures from tonight,” said Mark Duplin, a former Berlin resident and member of the Historical Society.

“A cafe would be great with memorabilia,” added Carol Argazzi, a Berlin resident.

A series of her paintings of the station were displayed during the program on small easels.

Pictures from previous fire in the 1800s and 1900s were also shared with the public.

“Eerie similarities of photos then and photos from last winter,” said Sallie Caliandri, member of the Historical Society. 203-317-2448 Twitter: @KusReporter

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