Update: 'Old and faulty wiring' causes fire in Ravenswood, reports show
A fire broke out at the McIntosh and NYA building in Ravenswood on Thursday morning. Preliminary reports show the cause of the fire was the result of "very old and faulty wiring," Ravenswood Mayor Josh Miller said. The fire was in the McIntosh section of the building, and the NYA section has smoke and water damage.
Miller said it's upsetting to see this building in disarray, but he's optimistic about how Ravenswood will bounce back.
"We're going to do everything we can to bring that thing back to life and see what we can do and continue to make that a pillar of the community," Miller said.
Katrena Ramsey, superintendent of Ravenswood Parks and Recreation, said she got the first call about the McIntosh and NYA building fire at 9:11 a.m.
Miller said a final investigation report will be made open to the public soon, but he'd be surprised if the cause of the fire changes. Jackson County Sheriff Ross Mellinger said that “the person of interest is being questioned" around 10:30 a.m. At around 1 p.m., Chief Fire Marshal Jason Baltic said the individual was questioned, but "not a lot of information was gained" from them. That person was released from questioning and is no longer a suspect.
Several primary searches were made when firefighters first arrived on the scene. At 1 p.m. Craig Blackhurst, deputy chief of Ravenswood Fire Department, said they were preparing for a secondary search. Blackhurst said the secondary search is a "reassessment" of the building and allows the fire marshals to investigate the cause of the fire.
Most of the damage is in the McIntosh section of the building, which was built in the late 1800s. Former President John F. Kennedy visited the building once and Louis Armstrong's piano was on display on the second floor, Ramsey said.
"I saw them taking a lot of things out of there," Blackhurst said. "Hopefully they were able to get a lot of the important stuff out and not a lot of damage happened to it."
Sycamore Street and Mulberry Street were blocked off, but many residents walked over as the building was engulfed in flames. Dozens lined the parameter of the building. Natasha Lemley, a Ravenswood resident, stood in the rain with tears in her eyes as she watched the flames rise up from the building. Lemley said she isn't from the area, but watching this building go up in flames was "emotional."
“It’s like watching part of you burn,” Lemley said. “It’s so sad.”
Natasha's husband, Paul, said his sister got married in the McIntosh/NYA building, his family Christmas party was held there and his mom just rented the building for an upcoming class reunion scheduled for October.
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Many spots of the McIntosh roof are now gone, along with the third floor, and the second floor is heavily damaged, Public Information Officer Bobby Bibbee said. Miller made the following Facebook post when the preliminary cause of the fire was determined Thursday evening:
Ramsey said this building was the "heart of the town." The last event held at McIntosh/NYA was May 22. The next community event — Music at the Mac — was scheduled for June 19. Ramsey said she's dedicated much of her time to restoring the building. She recently had the porch at the McIntosh entrance redone, and she was supposed to meet with a contractor Thursday morning to discuss a new roof.
"My biggest thought is: What do I do now?" Ramsey said. "I had such a vision ... I knew what I was going to do here."
— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.