Tribune demolition stopped for testing
Further demolition of the Tribune Printing Company building began Wednesday morning, but came to a halt shortly thereafter upon learning that further tests needed to be conducted on the building.
The building’s owner, Ross Walker, said he met with someone from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources today. Walker said he was told the DNR was going to take samples from the building to perform tests on them, although Walker did not know what the DNR was going to test for. He was told the tests would take three to six days to complete.
“It’s in the DNR’s court right now,” Walker said. “I’m waiting on them. They didn’t tell me anything, other than that they were taking samples. That’s all I know.”
Walker said he did not tell the demolition crew to stop its demolition, and he’s not sure who did.
If the DNR is testing for asbestos, there is only one DNR employee in the state who does asbestos sampling, and that is Tom Wuehr. Wuehr could not be reached for comment by press time. Representatives in the DNR’s Washington field office were not aware of any DNR employee from Washington County visiting Fairfield to inspect the Tribune building.
Walker hired Cross Iron Excavating in Fairfield to demolish the building for him. Rich Vogt of Cross Iron Excavating was operating the excavator Wednesday morning as he removed metal from the debris pile.
“I don’t know why they quit,” he said. “I was told I needed to pull out and that I had to stop for now. I wasn’t able to do much before I was told to quit.”
Fairfield Fire Chief Scott Vaughan said he and another firefighter arrived on the scene at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. They were in the department’s aerial truck, which they used to spray the debris with water to lessen the amount of dust that would drift into nearby businesses. Vaughan received word the demolition had to stop for more testing, so he unhooked the hose from the hydrant and headed back to the fire station.
“All I know is that they needed further testing, but they didn’t tell me what kind of testing,” he said.
Structural problems with the Tribune building were noted on July 8 when Walker and others saw the suspended ceiling had collapsed in part of the office. Walker said he could see cracks in the walls that day he had never seen before. The north wall had begun to lean into the street. The building was evacuated and law enforcement was called to the scene.
Cross Iron Excavating tore down the north wall that afternoon because it was a public safety hazard. A chain-link fence surrounding the building was erected July 11 to prevent anyone from getting too close to the building in case more of it collapsed, which is exactly what happened July 13.