Fires blamed on construction irregularities

Quirky construction is believed to have contributed to a string of roof fires on a downtown office building.

Quirky construction is believed to have contributed to a string of roof fires on a downtown office building.

Fire inspector Joe Towers said on Friday that they are looking at the role the building’s construction played in three smouldering blazes that broke out over an eight-day period.

“We’re still doing our investigation. There were issues with the building construction. There were some issues done 35 years ago that caught Copper Roofing unawares.”

Fire-medics were called out to the Port O Call Office Center at 4406 Gaetz Ave. twice on July 3 to extinguish small fires that had started after workers had been heating roofing products with a flame as part of the process. The fire department was back on July 11 after a similar fire broke out.

Towers said he and other fire investigators who responded to the incidents must still compile their final report, which is expected to be ready next week.

Fire investigators met with roofing company owners and workers last week to discuss the problems. Towers credited the roofing company with taking the right steps.

“I know Cooper Roofing was being very diligent in preventing it happening again.”

Don Cooper, who owns the company with son Chad, said problems were traced to the way the building was originally constructed. Cooper said there were gaps in the roof decking, some of which were covered up with wood. The openings allowed heat from the roofing torches to ignite insulation that normally would not have been at risk.

“We didn’t know that because it’s something you can’t see.”

Once the heat got in, the insulation would smoulder until smoke alarms inside the building detected the problem.

Even though the company posts a two-hour fire watch after completing heat processes, the problem was almost impossible to detect from the outside.

Cooper said the company has been doing similar roofing successfully for 20 years and uses professional journeyman roofers.

The company has taken additional precautions to ensure no further problems occur.

Building owner Gerry Seibel declined to comment.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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