Aberdeen Fire Chief Herbert Rieves takes pictures of a historic building that burned in Aberdeen on Wednesday. A preliminary investigation determined the origin of the fire but not the cause.

By Eileen Bailey

Daily Journal

ABERDEEN - The investigation into a Wednesday morning fire that destroyed a historic downtown Aberdeen building continues, but preliminary investigations show the fire was accidental, said the city's fire chief.

Aberdeen Fire Chief Herbert Rieves said Thursday the investigation has determined the fire began behind a grill in Becka's Burger Shack.

The fire, which was reported about 8:50 a.m. and smoldered throughout the day, destroyed the building, which housed the restaurant, a vacant office and a barber shop. The other businesses alongside the old Sirles building - a beauty salon, a realtor's office and a State Farm insurance office - received smoke damage.

Glenn Houston, director of the Aberdeen Main Street program which owns the building, said the insurance adjuster has ruled the building a "total loss" but put no monetary value on the property.

"It is difficult to put a monetary value on an older building, especially with the historical aspects of it," she said. The Main Street board members will meet at 8 a.m. Tuesday to discuss what to do next, Houston said.

It took more than an hour to get the blaze controlled and contained to one building. Firefighters spent several more hours extinguishing flames completely. Rieves said the last truck returned to the station at 6:43 p.m. He said at one point during the day, the weight of several layers of ceilings had become dangerous for firefighters.

"Vista Chemical brought in a crane with a 1,000-pound weight and knocked down the weak places," Rieves said. "Once that was down, we had no problems at all."

On Thursday afternoon, Rieves began taking pictures of the fire scene for his files. The building's roof lay in rubble on its floor. A vent pipe held by a wire swayed in the breeze. Red Spanish tile that once graced the eaves of the building lay in a crushed mass with glass and pieces of charred wood.

The historic building, built by Henry Sirles in the late 1870s, had housed a variety of businesses, including one of Aberdeen's two creameries. It also served as post office and federal court in the late 1800s.

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