Insurance investigators could finish their work this week at the scene of a fire that burned the new Beaufort County Black Chamber of Commerce building earlier this month.
A team of federal, state and local investigators announced last week that the Nov. 12 fire wasn’t arson. The fire started between the first and second floor in an enclosed area where the electrical system was the only possible source of heat, Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Chief Reece Bertholf said.
Chamber president and CEO Larry Holman said this week the insurance investigation could finish by Wednesday or Thursday, and that there were no new details yet as to how the fire started.
“I just want it done and over with so we know where to start,” Holman said. “Are we going to start from the ground, or are we going to start from the foundation and go up? We’re hoping we can go up from the foundation, which would save us like two-and-a-half months.”
Holman said the electrical work had been inspected but referred other questions to Neal’s Construction, the project’s general contractor. A phone message and email left for company president Gerald Neal had not been returned Wednesday afternoon.
The new Beaufort County Black Chamber building, on Bladen Street in downtown Beaufort, would have been completed in December. Plans included a commercial kitchen, office space for the chamber and business incubator tenants, and a first-floor art gallery and retail space.
The fire started early the morning of Nov. 12, and firefighters spent hours extinguishing the blaze on the upper floors of the three-story building.
A team of investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives worked to determine the cause and origin of the fire with the State Law Enforcement Division and Beaufort-Port Royal Fire Department.
Holman has said the fire won’t change plans for the building.