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Officials await results of tests from Athens fire

By Holly Hollman 340-2445

ATHENS — What ignited the fire that ravaged the old Butler building still is undetermined, Athens Fire Chief Cliff Christopher said.

Investigators finished at the scene Thursday, and collected samples to send to a lab, he said.

"We'll have to wait and see what those lab tests reveal," Christopher said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state fire marshal joined the investigation.

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk said he might have new information about how and where the fire started by early next week.

The two-story, 26,000-square-foot structure erupted into flames Monday at 3:45 p.m. Flames soared 30 to 40 feet high, drawing sightseers who captured the blaze with their camera phones.

Athens had to enlist its entire department to contain the fire, and hot spots burned until Thursday. That's when investigators were able to look through the rubble.

Dr. Joe Cannon and his wife, Laurie, used the building on West Market Street to store things like furniture and appliances.

The Butler family operated a store on the site since at least 1950 and until 1999 when Butler's Home furnishings moved to U.S. 72.

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