It’s still not known what caused a fire at DeLand’s historic Hotel Putnam more than two weeks ago, and it may yet take a little while longer for any answers to surface.
DeLand Fire Chief Daniel Hanes said the State Fire Marshal’s Office is still investigating the April 29 blaze, which required units from several cities to extinguish. The fire is being treated as suspicious, because the building is vacant and did not have electric service.
“I spoke with the lead investigator from the State Fire Marshal’s Office on Friday,” Hanes said in a May 15 email. “He told me during that conversation that it could still be a month or more before they are ready to release their findings.”
A lengthy investigation is typical under these circumstances, where the fire is treated as suspicious, the fire chief said.
The Hotel Putnam’s new owner, Orlando resident Mohamed Rashad, told The Beacon his crews had been working on demolition inside the building six days a week for two weeks before the blaze, in preparation for creating apartments.
Rashad said the building is insured. In addition to waiting for the State Fire Marshal’s Office investigation to conclude, he is waiting for his insurance company to complete some work.
In the meantime, Rashad has had a structural engineer examine the historic hotel.
“There is some damage, but preliminarily, the structural engineer said the building was actually safe to go back and work,” he said.
Once he gets the green light to resume work, Rashad said, he plans to have his crews at the hotel seven days a week, instead of taking a break on Sunday — the day the fire broke out.
Crews had been working at the structure for about two weeks before the blaze broke out.
“I can’t wait to go back,” Rashad said.
Opening in 1923 and billed as “fireproof,” the Hotel Putnam replaced the wooden Putnam Inn, which burned down in 1921.
Some wooden additions were made to the structure in later years, which appear to have taken the brunt of the fire damage, Rashad said.
Ultimately, however, the fire hasn’t changed his plans or deterred him from moving forward with his plans to turn the historic inn into apartments, with the first floor of the building possibly slated for some kind of commercial use.