From HERA Co-Chair Christine Wiseman–
Kim Norman of the Georgia Archives spoke to Sistie Hudson (Hancock County Commission Chair) today and learned that the reason the fire has not been extinguished is because coal stored inthe basement from an old furnace continues to burn. The coal will continue to burn with or without water dousing the site. Moreover, burning coal can produce toxic fumes. The state Fire Marshal has erected the fence line and closed the road until the walls of the structure are braced. The building cannot be structurally secured until the fire is out. So, it could be days or another week.
Chairman Hudson also reported that the state fire marshal has said the cause is yet undetermined. ATF officials visited the site without comment and will be submitting their findings. There is one vault at the courthouse with two opposing entries; both vault doors were open at the time of the fire. The fire marshal also said that three levels in the courthouse have pancaked down, creating debris layers and making it impossible to see what might remain.
Unfortunately, this does not bode well for the potential salvage of records. Nevertheless, Chairman Hudson was very grateful to hear from Kim and formally requested assistance from the Georgia Archives to conduct an assessment once the building has been cleared for entry.
I will send a separate message to the potential volunteers with a list of supplies to gather, just in case they are needed.
Will post further updates as received.
Christine Wiseman, HERA Co-Chair