WINCHESTER, VA - Fire investigators are ruling a workplace fire as “undetermined". Approximately two weeks after the fire occurred, investigators received an anonymous report indicating that the fire may have been intentionally set. After conducting additional interviews the report could not be definitively ruled out as a potential cause. Without being able to rule out all of the potential causes of a fire, the cause of this incident has officially been classified as "undetermined".
On May 30, 2014, Winchester Fire and Rescue responded to the former Zero Pak building at 560 N. Cameron Street for a reported
structure fire on the third floor of the six-story former cold storage warehouse building. The report came from crew members that had been working in and around the building to remove piping and old
equipment for recycling. Crews had been working for approximately three months in various buildings on the property doing demolition and torch cutting operations.
The fire was confined to the cork and foam insulation that lined the walls of the warehouse. The fire was a deep-seated smoldering fire that was discovered by workers after finishing their lunch break. When they
returned to the third floor after lunch they encountered smoke conditions and noticed fire along the cork walls. The workers attempted to extinguish the fire with fire extinguishers but were unsuccessful.
Fire and rescue crews arrived within minutes and were hampered by dark conditions and limited access to the upper floors due to narrow stairways and the lack of windows and other natural openings that provide light and help remove smoke. The fire ultimately spread within the cork insulation to the fifth floor requiring an extensive and continuous flow of water to cool and extinguish the smoldering material.
On June 1, 2014, after conducting a 24-hour fire watch to ensure the fire had been completely extinguished, investigators conducted the on scene examination. Investigators confirmed the workers’ reports that the fire originated in the cork insulation that lined the walls of the structure on the third floor. After completing the scene examination, investigators could not rule out the “hot work” operations being conducted in the room of origin as a potential ignition source. Investigators did confirm that strict safety procedures were adhered to with the exception of conducting a fire watch for a prescribed amount of time after work had stopped. Workers on-site had also reported multiple instances of having to run individuals out of the building due to the building having multiple unsecured openings allowing entry. Investigators also confirmed this based on multiple openings in walls or fencing that had been cut or forced open to gain access.
Anyone with additional information about the fire at Zero Pak on May 30, 2014 is asked to contact the Fire Marshal’s Office. For further information, please or contact Winchester Fire & Rescue Headquarters at (540) 662-2298.