29 Holt Place fire investigation, and an update on 36 Philadelphia Ave

The following is an update on two properties in Takoma Park’s Ward 1 —

Walt Rave’s house, 29 Holt Place

I contacted the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue Service investigator, Lt. Daniel Maxwell, looking into the house fire at 29 Holt Place that claimed Walt Rave’s life back in December. I’ll paraphrase what he told me —

Maxwell said that the cause of the fire remains undetermined, that there were many potential ignitables on the porch and investigators haven’t been able to narrow down the cause yet. At this point, status is “undertermined accidental.” It does look less likely that the pick-up truck was involved in the fire. [The January 2012 NHTSA report does list the vehicle as the source of the fire, based on MCFRS’s belief at that time.]

Maxwell is a crime investigator, and he says there is no evidence of arson.

The MCFRS case is open but inactive, pending further work by the insurance company, which is “probably” working in the background, conducting tests. Insurance investigations can take a long time, possibly years, if there are legal questions regarding pay-out.

36 Philadelphia Avenue

The city is moving toward demolition of the abandoned, deteriorating house at 36 Philadelphia Avenue.

The city had commissioned a “structural condition assessment.” The contracted structural-engineering firm, Tadjer-Cohen-Edelson Associates, “observed” the property on December 9, 2011 and March 30, 2012. According to TCE’s report —

“Structural analysis of the observations reveals that the house is structurally unstable and could collapese without warning. Attempts at repair would likely result in collapse of the house. It is therefore unsafe to attempt repair and thus [the house] cannot be restored.”

The city filed an application for a required Historic Area Work Permit (HAWP), with the Department of Permitting Services (DPS), on June 6 with a copy given to the County’s Planning staff the following day.

Historic Takoma (HTI) VP Lorraine Pearsall tells me that HTI will accept demolition.

Sara Daines says, “We are currently awaiting the assignment of a building permit number by DPS. Assuming a permit number is assigned soon, tentative plans are for the request to go before the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) on June 27 at 7:30 p.m.” Owners of neighboring properties are supposed to receiving hearing notices from the HPC. Concerned parties may submit comment to the HPC and/or attend the hearing.

Please let me know if you have questions or concerns that I could address.

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