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The Saratogian Newsroom blog, complete with thoughts and commentary from our newsroom staff and regular posts on happenings around town.

Thursday, August 8

Cause of Woodlawn fire still under investigation, despite reports

Saratoga Springs Police Lt. John Catone is adamant that the cause of the fire that destroyed a century-old building and displaced 39 people is still under investigation and that reports that it was an electrical fire (as the Times Union reported Tuesday and Saratoga Wire initially reported as the suspected cause of the fire) are false.

He sent out this message to reporters in his system this morning to emphasize that point: 
"Some of you have reported that the cause of the Woodlawn Ave Fire is electrical. I would like to inform you that your information is NOT correct and by reporting such information you are actually hampering the investigation. When the time comes and we complete the investigation there will be a joint press release or press conference in which myself and the Fire Chief will discuss the investigation. I have no time limit in which the investigation will be finished. That rumor has been floating around for a while. When I interviewed people after the fire they, too, said they heard it was electrical but Catone denied it then as well."
The TU doesn't cite any sources but "authorities" at one point and "police" at another. 

Saratoga Wire cites Catone citing residents and says "they suspect" that it was electrical, but I don't know if that is what police or residents suspected. *The Wire also said it was only a "working hypothesis."* 

In the wake of the fire, I was told by a couple of residents the electrical issue was what they had heard, too. It seemed to be the rumor running around. 

I talked to Catone about it yesterday and he wouldn't say what the cause was and said it is too early to tell. He said the county Fire Origin Team and Investigator Jack Barney were working on the case.

When I asked him if foul play was suspected he said "We think we know, but I'm not saying one way or the other."  

Dale Willman of Saratoga Wire came to The Saratogian office to argue with my characterization of what he initially wrote about the cause of the fire. 

He said I took the statement out of context and they didn't call it an electrical fire. 

Here is the full paragraph:

"Catone says because of the way witnesses have described the start of the fire, they suspect it may have been caused by an electrical problem. However he says that is only a working hypothesis right now. The building where the fire began is so damaged they will be tearing what remains down later Sunday, so he says they may never be able to determine with certainty the final cause."
So... fair enough. Willman couched it saying it was a suspected cause of the fire and only a working hypothesis. In this post I originally wrote that Saratoga Wire reported it WAS an electrical fire.

I've changed that because Willman is right (much to my chagrin) they wrote it was the "suspected" cause, not the cause, and I should have included that word in the original post's description.

My mistake.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dale can be slanted when it comes to reporting politics but he is usually spot on when it comes to reporting the facts of a story.

August 8, 2013 at 10:38 PM 

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