Fire officials probe cause of State Street blaze
Updated 9:21 p.m.
SCHENECTADY The cause of a fire that damaged a prominent State Street building Thursday remained under investigation Friday.
Fire officials were hoping to have more information on a cause next week, but Deputy Chief Scott Doherty declined to rule out anything Friday afternoon.
The fire broke out around 5:30 p.m. Thursday in the former Patton & Hall Building at 237-247 State St. Flames damaged the building’s second and third floors, while water damaged the fourth and first floors, Doherty said.
City code enforcers examined the building Friday and found it to be structurally sound, so it won’t need to be demolished, he said.
State Street between Erie Boulevard and South Ferry Street was closed overnight and much of Friday as crews worked. The street was reopened by 3:30 p.m.
Regarding the investigation, Doherty said there was electric, gas and water service to the building and three unofficial residents.
Two people lived in an apartment on the second floor and a man lived in a third-floor apartment. None of the three were home at the time of the blaze. The Red Cross reported helping two residents. Neither apartment was believed to have the required city certificates, Doherty said.
At least one firefighter suffered a minor shoulder injury fighting the fire, he said.
Hampering firefighting efforts was the cold and snowy weather and the sheer size of the building, Doherty said. The building itself has more than 26,000 square feet of floor space, records show.
“It’s a very large building,” Doherty said. “With a large fire like that, it makes it very difficult to put it out. It just takes time and water.”
The Mr. James Hairstylist building next door sustained some minor water damage and a broken front door that was later boarded up for the night, officials said.
The owner of record is Ultimate Fitness Center, a company that lists the building as its address. Ultimate Fitness approached the city Planning Commission in March 2010 with a project to locate a gym in the building, but it was unclear whether it received approval.
Doherty, though, said there appeared to be no operating business in the building, nor any preparations to open one. The building once housed All American Health and Fitness.
The structure was built in 1910 and once housed Patton & Hall Shoes and Hosiery.
Also Thursday night, firefighters battled another blaze at 1009 Strong St. That fire was largely contained to the attic, Doherty said. That building was supposed to be vacant, with no electric or gas service, he said.
The cause has been deemed incendiary, with one possible scenario being a squatter starting a fire to stay warm and the fire getting away from him. In that case, the squatter could face charges if found, Doherty said.