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Questions linger week after Chatham courthouse fire

Posted April 2, 2010

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— Questions continue to linger more than a week after the Chatham County courthouse caught fire.

Fire Marshal Thomas Bender said a worker was using a soldering torch on the southwest corner of the building when the torch fell, hit some wood and started the fire on March 25.

A representative for the construction company, Progressive Contracting, said Friday that workers initially used a fire extinguisher on the flames and asked a someone who was exiting the building to call 911. Workers also searched the building to make sure everyone was out, Todd Snyder of Progressive said.

911 calls: Chatham courthouse fire (1)
911 calls: Chatham courthouse fire (2)
911 calls: Chatham courthouse fire (3)
911 calls: Chatham courthouse fire (4)

Snyder said firefighters and police arrived on the scene as his workers exited the building.

Another part of the case that’s gaining attention is the lack of a “hot work permit.”

The contractor wasn't required to notify the fire marshal's office that it was doing the work, because a hot work permit is optional in North Carolina and up to each municipality to enforce.

“Had I known they were doing hot work, there would have been an inspection performed,” Bender told commissioners Wednesday. “There would have been a fire blanket out there. There would have been fire extinguishers out there, and they would have maintained their fire watch for the proper time after they did their work.”

Bender wouldn’t go as far as to say the permit should be required statewide, but he does plan to bring up the question at the next meeting of the state Fire Marshals Association.

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