As time passes, so does the likelihood there will ever be an official cause of what happened on the frigid night of Jan. 6, when flames took with them a key part of Waverly’s past and what was becoming a focal point in the paranormal world of the present.
In an online poll conducted at ChillicotheGazette.com, the Emmitt House fire was voted the No. 2 most notable local story of 2014 by the newspaper’s online readers.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office has spent the past year looking for a cause of the fire and said Monday that it remains an open case.
Lindsey Burnworth, a spokeswoman for the office, told The Gazette that, the longer the case remains open without a resolution, the greater the likelihood exists that investigators will have to reduce the amount of time spent on the probe.
Shortly after the fire took place, the fire marshal sought help from the public, asking for any video footage residents might have shot of the burning 153-year-old structure. Video received from bystanders was reviewed frame by frame in a search for clues regarding a possible cause.
In August, Assistant State Fire Marshal Josh Hobbs told The Gazette that a big part of the challenge involved in the investigation revolved around the fact multiple businesses were housed inside the structure and that there was a lot of emotion involved for people interviewed during the initial probe. That meant a lot of time had to be spent sorting speculation from fact.
Hobbs acknowledged at the time that the possibility existed that a definitive cause might never be found.
The fire marshal’s office is still asking for any information that residents might have regarding the fire. Tips can be called in to 800-589-2738.
Results of an insurance company investigation into the blaze were released in April and indicated the fire appeared accidental, having been caused by an overworked gas furnace on the second floor of the structure that was trying to keep up with the subzero temperatures that night.
The fire took place during an extreme blast of cold weather that passed through the area and, in the aftermath of the fire, left an icy coating on cars near the fire scene and the road itself from the water from fire hoses used to douse the flames.
The Emmitt House was constructed in 1861 by James Emmitt as a hotel during the height of the village’s canal days. While serving several functions in the years since, the structure gained recognition as the landmark building of Waverly’s downtown — in part because of repeated reports of paranormal activity taking place inside.
In recent years, the building became the site of several paranormal investigations, played host to a gathering of paranormal enthusiasts at ParaCon 2012, and was featured on the SyFy Network series “Haunted Collector.”