HUDSON FALLS — A fire Thursday afternoon caused minor damage to a section of the upper floors of the former Masonic Temple on Main Street, but no one was hurt and the damage was described as minimal.
Investigators initially believed it was caused by an electrical problem. But on Thursday night, Washington County fire investigators concluded that improperly discarded smoking materials appeared to be to blame.
Multiple fire departments responded to the five-story building, which is home to property developer Sandy Hill Vision and three other commercial tenants.
The fire was reported about 4 p.m. Thursday and it was extinguished within minutes of the first fire crew’s arrival.
Building owner Bill Nikas said fire alarms were triggered by the smoke, which resulted in a quick response by Hudson Falls firefighters. They found smoke in the upper floors of the building, and traced the fire to an area between the ceiling of the fourth and floor of the fifth floors. Wooden joists were damaged.
“There was minimal damage,” Hudson Falls Police Detective John Kibling said. “Luckily, the alarm system worked and the people inside were able to evacuate.”
Kibling said the fire began around wiring, but when fire investigators pulled apart the damaged area, they found wiring was not believed to have been involved. Instead, they believe it began accidentally with “smoking materials” that weren’t identified publicly.
“We can say it was accidental and not intentional,” he said.
It was not clear whether the person who was responsible had been identified.
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Nikas said the area that was damaged was scheduled to be renovated.
“Contractors have been in there and they just hooked up the chandeliers,” he said. “All five floors have all new wiring.”
The activity slowed traffic in the area of Main Street/Route 4 north of Juckett Park. Main Street was closed for several blocks as firefighters worked at the scene.
The lower floors of the building are home to the Council for Prevention, McKernon Gallery and Jo & Co. Boutique.
Haleigh Rock, manager of Jo & Co., and Katherine Chambers, youth court director for the Council for Prevention, said a smell of smoke was evident after alarms forced them to leave the building. The Council for Prevention is on the second floor, the boutique on the first.
“We weren’t sure what it was at first,” Chambers said. “They have been doing so much work in this building.”
Whether the lower floor businesses suffered any smoke or water damage was unclear late Thursday.
The building, at the corner of Main and Locust streets and next to the Strand Theatre, was vacant for decades before Nikas purchased it and began work. Contractors have been renovating it floor-by-floor in recent years as part of a renewal project, and an arts center is planned for the upper floors.
Hudson Falls firefighters received mutual aid from Kingsbury, Fort Edward, South Queensbury and Argyle fire departments.