Dyer St

A piece of excavation machinery tears down an apartment building on Dyer Street in Laconia last September. The building will be replaced by one of similar size which will have eight apartments. The fire which made the building unsalvageable is considered suspicious. The investigation by police is continuing. (Michael Mortensen/The Laconia Daily Sun photo)

LACONIA — Almost four months to the day after a five-alarm fire tore through an apartment building on Dyer Street, a demolition crew started tearing the badly damaged structure down.

The two-story building at 17 Dyer St. is being torn down to make way for another eight-unit apartment house, city Planning Director Dean Trefethen said Thursday.

The extensive damage precluded the building from being repaired.

“The decision was made to tear it down for (reasons of) public safety,” Trefethen said.

The new apartments will be constructed on the foundation of the burned-out building. Because it will be constructed on the perimeter of the existing building no city approval is needed for the project. The owner, EWT 54 LLC, of Concord, will need to obtain a building permit, but has not yet done so, Trefethen explained.

The fire, which authorities have called suspicious, tore through the building at about 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 8 while most of the 16 to 18 residents were asleep. All the occupants were able to flee to safety, some with only the clothes on their backs.

Firefighters battled the flames for more than three hours before bringing the blaze under control.

The units at one end of the building received extensive fire damage. The vinyl siding on the back, and the far end of the building was burned off. The heat from the flames was so intense that it melted some of the vinyl siding of a house next door.

Six of the eight apartments received severe to moderate fire damage. One unit suffered minor fire damage, while another had just smoke damage, Fire Chief Kirk Beattie said at the time.

Police Matt Canfield said Thursday that the investigation into the fire is continuing. He said detectives are waiting for “analysis of digital evidence” to be completed. He said that phase of the investigation has taken longer than expected because of COVID.

In the days after the fire police interviewed three people they called “persons of interest” in connection with the fire. In early October Canfield was optimistic that investigators were making progress.

“It’s become a lot more complicated,” he said of the investigation.

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