Awaiting Masonic Temple demolition, officials monitor weather, building

·3 min read
More than a week after the burning, the Zanesville Masonic Temple fire continues to flare up. Firefighters are monitoring the site 24/7 to knock down any blazes. The changing weather remains a concern for the remaining dilapidated structure.
More than a week after the burning, the Zanesville Masonic Temple fire continues to flare up. Firefighters are monitoring the site 24/7 to knock down any blazes. The changing weather remains a concern for the remaining dilapidated structure.

ZANESVILLE — Facing unstable weather conditions that may hinder the structural integrity of the building, public safety authorities are keeping a watchful eye on the Masonic Temple.

The condition of the skeletal frame hasn't changed much since the initial fire damage on Jan. 6, Zanesville Fire Department Chief Jeff Bell said, but fluctuating temperatures and other weather patterns kept officials on alert.

Discussions underway: Masonic Temple fire: Demolition plans still undetermined on Monday

Freezing temperatures, thawing and re-freezing were all in the recent forecast, and the Zanesville area received between 8 and 9 inches of snow Sunday night and Monday morning.

It's something Bell said personnel must keep an eye on while they're on site around the clock and waiting for a demolition contractor to step in.

Officials check for bowing or cracking in the walls, if the building is leaning, among other possible damage.

Bricks are coming loose. That's one red flag authorities have already noted.

Jeff Bell
Jeff Bell

"Without being an engineer myself, we try to document changes we see," Bell said. "The best thing for us is bringing it down as quickly and safely as we can."

Additionally, the Masonic Temple will continue to smoke and smolder until the building is demolished, Zanesville Public Safety Director Doug Merry said.

Firefighters are already monitoring the site 24/7 to monitor any activity. They will take action when the fire flares up in the building.

There's still no date on a demolition. As of Friday, no demolition permits have been filed with the county, Merry said.

He compared the flare-ups to a campfire that appears to be out, but gusts of wind cause it to rekindle.

"This is the same thing," he said. "It's smoldering along, and as the wind blows through, it gets through and gets to a hot spot."

Surrounding buildings lost gas and power following the blaze. Gas has been restored to those businesses after utility companies did work around Fourth Street last week, Bell said.

Inmates had to be evacuated from the neighboring Muskingum County Jail. Offices in the courthouse are also temporarily relocated until the building is taken down. Personnel also have to make sure the public stays outside of the collapse zone in case the building were to fall on its own.

"Life safety is the first thing, then we're trying to protect property," Bell said.

Fire aftermath: Zanesville artists mourn loss of Masonic Temple; see opportunity to rise from the ashes

Fire investigators are limited in their abilities until the building comes down to a safer level, Bell said.

Right now they are inspecting what they can. That includes using drones to take photos on the inside where it's unsafe to enter.

"We may never know what the cause was, but we’re hoping to get in when the building comes down on a safe level to take some pictures, and figure out the cause to the best of our ability," Bell said.

ecouch@gannett.com

740-450-6752

Twitter: @couchreporting

This article originally appeared on Zanesville Times Recorder: Awaiting Masonic Temple demolition, officials monitor weather, building

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