WESTPORT, Conn. Investigators have yet to pinpoint the cause of the blaze that heavily damaged Saugatuck Congregational Church last month, Westport Fire Marshal Edward Zygmant said Wednesday.
"The investigation is ongoing," Zygmant said. "The murder case did and will continue to take time away from this, but it's still being worked on."
Although the fire is still being probed, investigators have "released" certain rooms to allow church officials to prepare for the rebuilding process, John Walsh, director of the church's Board of Trustees, announced on its website Monday.
Last week, the choir room one of the areas most damaged by fire was cleared to set up scaffolding and tarps to protect the rear of the sanctuary, which was spared by flames.
The fellowship room, another area heavily damaged by fire, is still being investigated. But "we have been able to install temporary provisions to protect the boiler room beneath," Walsh said.
The fire broke out shortly before 10 p.m. Nov. 20 and took about six hours to fully extinguish. It was concentrated on the second and third floors in the rear of the building, Zygmant has said previously . The lower portion suffered the most severe smoke and water damage, and the remainder of the church, including the sanctuary and new education wing, sustained water and smoke damage.
Mary Ann West, communications director for the church, said no estimates have been made on how long the church will be closed. But in his message to congregants, Walsh said cleanup efforts have already begun.
"Cleaning, deodorizing, and in some cases, removal of floor and ceiling tiles is going on," he said. "Some areas are down to studs and joists as we look to eliminate the smoke odor."
In preparing to take down the ceiling in the sanctuary, Walsh said the chandelier has been removed and put into storage, and the scaffolding has been setup. The pews, he added, have been covered for protection.
The church has also established an Architectural Committee to find architects for the designing and rebuilding process, Walsh said.
Since the fire, Sunday services have taken place at Temple Israel. Last Tuesday, Saugatuck Nursery School reopened at the Westport Weston Family Y, and church officials were still trying to hammer down temporary offices.
"Make no mistake, there is a long road ahead. But we feel we have learned a lot and made significant progress in this short time," Walsh said. "We have a sound plan as to how to move forward and are putting the resources in place to address the challenge."
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