Fire investigators have finished their on-scene investigation into the first of two fires at Silver Sands State Park, but have yet to determine the cause of the first blaze.
That inferno, Tuesday evening, March 19, destroyed several buildings that were part of the $9.1 million park improvement project.
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) spokesman Lee Sawyer said investigators will continue to analyze evidence and interview individuals before determining the cause of the first fire. Sawyer doesn’t know when that will be.
“But they are making good progress,” he said.
Jeff Beckham, a spokesman for the state’s Department of Administrative Services (DAS), which is overseeing the construction project, said Tuesday, March 26, that no date has been set for when construction will start again and when it will be complete.
The general contractor, Scopes Construction of New Britain, was insured. Sawyer confirmed this week the state intends to complete the project, but funding depends on the insurance coverage, and whether it will be enough to cover repairs. Those factors hinge on the cause of the fire.
“DAS is still evaluating the insurance and that will be part of the decision and timeline for the next steps,” Sawyer said. “The evaluation of insurance coverage will determine if any other state investment is required to complete the project.”
If more funds are needed, it will be up to DAS and the governor to determine that, Sawyer said.
The new amenities at Silver Sands, including a concession stand, restrooms and an office building on an elevated section of boardwalk, were scheduled to be open Memorial Day.
But the March 19 fire destroyed at least two of the three buildings. State officials said they are still waiting to see what parts of the project can be salvaged. The pilings, which hold up the elevated boardwalk and the three buildings, are also being assessed for damage, Beckham said.
“There is lots of information to gather and decisions to make,” Beckham said.
It cost the state $3 million to construct the three buildings on the boardwallk, according to Sawyer. There are other parts of the project that were not damaged, including ticket booths, a maintenance building, paved roadway, parking lot improvements and boardwalk repairs.
State Rep. Kim Rose (D-Milford) believes the Silver Sands project should move forward. “We’ve spent the money. If we can get [the structures] back, it would be terrific,” she said.
“There are so many things that have to be put in play before we can talk about rebuilding,” Rose said, adding, “Nothing moves quickly at the state.”
While the cause of the March 19 fire has not been determined, a subsequent fire on Sunday, March 24 at two storage containers at the park has been ruled arson.
“Investigators have determined the Sunday morning fire in storage containers at Silver Sands State Park was intentionally set,” DEEP said in a statement issued Sunday. “Anyone with information is asked to call the Connecticut Arson Hotline at 1-800-84-ARSON. There is a $2,500 reward.”
DEEP added in its statement that the second fire had not been linked to the first.
Following the second fire, DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes issued a statement saying the department remains committed to completing the park improvement project.
“I am grateful as always for the work of first responders and the numerous expressions of support from Milford officials and residents,” Dykes said. “The unfortunate events of the past week have only strengthened our coordination with community leaders and our commitment to park improvements for all visitors to enjoy.”