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Investigators determine cause of Chatham courthouse fire

Posted Tuesday, April 6, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham County Fire Marshal Thomas Bender said that the investigation of the fire at the Historic County Courthouse has determined that the fire started when a construction worker using a soldering iron to repair gutters accidentally started a fire in the soffit area.

“The State Bureau of Investigation will release an official report within the next few weeks, but we have reached a finding. A thorough investigation of the evidence led us to a conclusion fairly quickly,” Bender said. “It is common for rumors about the cause to circulate throughout the community when you have a disaster of this magnitude. Our job is to conduct a thorough, unbiased investigation to document the cause before we announce it to the public.”

The fire started in the soffit area of the roof

A major exterior restoration of the courthouse started earlier this year, the first since the early 1990s. The fire started in the soffit area of the roof and quickly spread to the clock tower and east side of the roof. “The wind and the old heart pine timbers provided highly flammable fuel which contributed significantly to the intensity of the fire in the building,” Bender said.
County Manager Charlie Horne said that the county is relieved to get confirmation of the cause, but said much work remains prior to moving forward. “The county does have property insurance coverage on all of our facilities.”

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