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Exterior walls of Chatham County courthouse may be salvageable

Posted Friday, March 26, 2010

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Pittsboro, NC - During a news briefing in Pittsboro at 5:30 pm, Chatham County Manager Charlie Horne said that removal of debris in the Historic County Courthouse would begin as soon as this evening, with a crane performing the initial work.

The removal of debris will help completely extinguish the fire and make it possible for critical personnel to enter the building.

Horne said that an initial exterior evaluation today by structural engineers indicates that the walls, except for the gables, appear to be sound and may be salvageable. “We also know that the ceiling above the Chatham Historical Society Museum is intact at this time, so we are more hopeful now that at least some of the historical artifacts and records may be retrieved and restored.”

Walter Harris from the Historical Society said that the nonprofit organization will be working with the State Archives and other agencies to help with the restoration process. “We are a nonprofit and we certainly are in the position to receive funding to help preserve these important historical items.”

Horne said that it is still too soon to know the basic structure of the building can be saved, “but we are more hopeful than we were earlier today.”

Chatham County Fire Marshal Thomas Bender said that the SBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms continued to work with his office throughout the day on the investigation of the fire. “We have made good progress with interviewing people and reviewing photos, including overhead shots from helicopters. But, we can’t complete our investigation until we get into the courthouse.”

Bender said that removal of the debris would not hamper the investigation because removal is the key to securing the people enough to get inside. “We also start with what has not burned.”

The traffic circle and other areas near the courthouse remain closed for at least the next few days, but DOT has placed detour signs in the area to reroute traffic around the circle.”

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