Crews plan to search inside the Jay Street apartment buildings later today as part of an ongoing investigation into a massive fire that gutted the complex early Friday morning.
Schenectady Police Lt. Mark McCracken said investigators with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are working to stabilize the structure and might enter the ground floor of the buildings today to start searching inside.
McCracken said the buildings would have to be shored up before the search gets underway. Demolition of the two buildings started Sunday but progressed slowly, so that the cause and starting point of the fire can be determined.
McCracken said 100-102 and 104 Jay St. would be taken apart, piece-by-piece, to allow for investigators to search the complex. Several people are still missing after the fire, he said.
“They have to stabilize the structure first, then dismantle it so they can start sifting through the evidence to determine the cause of the fire as well as recovery of any human remains,” he said.
ATF agents are taking photos inside the buildings from a basket suspended by a crane above the buildings. Jackson Demolition of Schenectady removed part of the top of 104 Jay St. on Sunday.
The investigation is expected to continue throughout the week, according to city Building Inspector Eric Shilling.
The fire broke out at the two-building complex across from City Hall at 2:01 a.m. Friday morning, leaving several people missing, seven hospitalized and about 60 with nowhere to live.
The condition of the people hospitalized is unknown, McCracken said. He said the number of people unaccounted for is also unclear at this time, but more than one person is believed to be missing.
The point of origin and cause of the fire is still unclear. McCracken said the fire started in 104 Jay St. and spread next door to 100-102 Jay St. It took firefighters until early Friday evening to fully extinguish the blaze.
The Schenectady Police Department is asking anyone who lived in the buildings to call their tips line at 788-6566. The police are interviewing displaced residents to determine who lived in the buildings and who might have been inside during the fire.
“We’re trying to figure out who was living there and who might have been spending the night visiting,” McCracken said. “Everyone who was living there or inside the buildings is being formally interviewed.”
Family members and friends searching for people who lived in the buildings can check the “Safe and Well” portion of the Red Cross website at safeandwell.communityos.org.
About 12 people were being housed at Christ Church on State Street, which was set up as a shelter Friday by the American Red Cross. The Department of Social Services will help them find more permanent housing today.
Donations are being directed to the Salvation Army at 222 Lafayette St. Monetary donations may be made by calling 1-800-RED-CROSS or by going to www.redcross.org.
The Millennial Council established a campaign to help raise money for the victims. People may donate to the campaign at www.gofundme.com/o1qnnc. As of Sunday evening, the fund had raised a total of $4,505 from 92 people in two days.
Also, MVP Health Care has committed to match donations to American Red Cross Disaster Relief until Friday up to a total of $5,000.
Schenectady City Hall will be reopened for normal operations today. The entrances on Jay and Liberty streets will remain closed, however. Visitors will need to use the entrances on Franklin or Clinton streets.