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What caused Habanero’s fire?

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PRINCETON – A cause for the early morning blaze that engulfed Habanero’s Mexican Grill and Catina in downtown Princeton Wednesday morning is yet to be investigated.

The Office of State Fire Marshal media relations agent Milly Santiago has been in contact with fire marshal Linda Hacker, who was called to investigate the scene Wednesday once the fire was extinguished.

Santiago released information from Hacker stating no investigative work has yet been able to take place in the building because of the extent of damage to the building. She explained the area is unsafe to enter, and Hacker is waiting for an insurance company to bring in heavy equipment to dig out the structure before an investigation can take place.

The building has been called a “total loss,” after firefighters worked nearly nine hours maintaining the fire to one building on South Main Street. Around 50 firefighters from 12-13 area fire departments were dispatched to the scene around 2 a.m. Woolley confirmed no foul play is suspected. He explained Hacker was called to the scene based on the size of the fire and amount of damage it caused.

The Princeton Fire Department was called back to the shambled structure three times throughout the day on Wednesday to maintain rekindling spots within the building.   Woolley said in a case where the roof and floor of a building becomes destroyed, it’s common for trapped hot spots to arise.

Around 6 p.m. Wednesday, Woolley confirmed smoke was no longer showing from the building, and it appeared the burning was complete.

Three neighboring businesses, Tanks pet store, Very Important Pet animal grooming service and Princeton Insurance Group, only experienced smoke and water damage. Despite rumors, Woolley confirmed not a single fish or animal in the pet shop died during the incident.

“We obviously were concerned about the fish when the power was out because of the bubblers in the tanks. Also, with no heat in the building, we were afraid it might get too cold for them,” he said. “But to my knowledge no fish or animal died.”

Firefighters had to break through the front glass door of Tanks during the fire to confirm flames weren’t spreading through the walls or into the attic of the business.

Woolley couldn’t say whether or not the Habanero’s building would be torn down right away. He said it was a matter that would be discussed between the business owner and an insurance company.

“We did request yesterday (Wednesday) that the insurance agent bring in an excavator to push in one of the walls between two buildings to avoid it falling onto the other building,” he said.

The safety measure was only discussed, but had not yet been accomplished as of Thursday afternoon.

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