Vince Merolla, president of Vince Merolla Enterprises, said he decided to conduct the event because he wanted to make sure the facts were presented and to let the public know that the ruined building is about to be demolished.
The building at 3440 Sixes Road near BridgeMill, which housed eight tenants at the time, went up in flames March 5 around 5 a.m. It was one of the biggest commercial fires in the county in years.
Since the fire, Cherokee County fire investigators released their findings that the cause of the fire was undetermined.
“Due to the inability to completely rule out the possibility of an electrical causation within the area of origin, the cause of the fire is undetermined at this time,” a report issued at the end of the investigation stated.
On Thursday, Merolla confirmed the cause of the fire as reported by the Cherokee Tribune.
“The cause of the fire was determined to begin in the attic as electrical,” Merolla said. “However, because the fire was so intense and destroyed so much of the building, the only ruling available to authorities was ‘undetermined.’”
Merolla told those in attendance Thursday that he has plans to clear the site next week.
“Over the next five to seven days, we’ll clear the site all the way down to the dirt and then my staff and I will start to plan out the rebuild of the building,” he said, adding he plans to eventually build a replacement but has no time frame for the construction
Merolla expressed his appreciation to the public safety personnel for their hard work in trying to save the building and securing the building. He also thanked his friends, tenants, staff and businesses associates for their support and loyalty.
He went on to say that the structure has been declared a total loss by his insurance company.
“They are working with me to issue payment for the loss,” Merolla said.
Merolla said that on the day of the fire, his main concern was that no one was hurt in the fire.
“I received a phone call from a member of my staff that the building was engulfed in flames,” Merolla said. “My immediate concern was to make sure no one was in the building and everyone was safe.”
Merolla said he was initially in shock, but regained composure while driving to the location from his home.
“It was a very difficult situation,” he said.
Cherokee County firefighters and the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office were actively working the scene when Merolla arrived that morning, he said, adding he was relieved that no one had been in the building at the time of the fire.
“As you may recall, the wind was very strong that morning which made the job of fighting the fire much more difficult,” Merolla said. “The metal roof on the building also caused the heat to stay in and the water out, which obviously created a dangerous situation.”
Merolla said he intended to invite the tenants who occupied the building before the fire back once the building has been replaced.
“I would welcome them all back as soon as we’re able to accommodate them,” Merolla said.