The site of the former Plaza Hotel remains a rubble-strewn mess. Ten days after a fire destroyed the building, its last remaining wall has come down. But it took a lot of work to get to that point.
On the morning of May 6, Chew Excavating’s general manager Steve Chapman said he was still just an observer.
“I was across the street at an apartment. I came out then it was about 5:30 in the morning to see a fully engulfed building in flames with the fire department fighting the fire,” Chapman said.
Shortly after, Chapman’s company received a call from the fire department. Firefighters couldn’t get close enough to put out the fire and needed help. Quickly, Chew Excavating dispatched staff to the scene, including Soner Uzun.
“We came here and it wasn’t good. The biggest thing is the fire department couldn’t get into the building. Because it wasn’t safe for them to get closer to the building because the walls are just standing up. Anytime they can fall anyway, inside or outside,” Uzun said.
The heritage building is in danger of falling onto the sidewalk and into an adjoining building. The challenge: excavator crews have to safely, carefully, take down the walls, with firefighters still working inside the building.
“Because of the height of the building, we couldn’t reach the top with the excavator, and because of the basement, and the tunnels underneath the basement,” Chapman said. “We used the debris that was already taken down to fill in the basement, allowing us to walk on top of it.”
Then there’s the slow business of taking the walls down.
“We’re feeling very good right now. Because it’s very safe now,” Uzun said.
There is still no word on the Plaza’s missing caretaker, Mike Draeger. And police had not released any information on the cause of the fire.