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Search continues at fire site

Police need colder weather to resume efforts; fire department unable to find cause of blaze

The unseasonably warm weather will not likely help the search for Vernon Martin in the rubble of the NT Air fire. Mounties said the debris from the massive hanger, which burned to the ground on Dec. 19, probably could not be penetrated before the area froze over again when temperatures return to normal. The forecast is for freezing to resume by Sunday.

"Investigators are waiting for a seasonal change in the weather before launching this extremely intensive secondary search," said Prince George RCMP spokesman Const. Gary Godwin. "The very unseasonably warm weather we are currently enjoying may not last long enough for a secondary search to completely examine the entire NT Air building. Once the search is launched, investigators will want to keep continuity of the scene until the search is completed, which could stretch into weeks."

The principal search was in the immediate aftermath of the blaze when it became known that Martin, the building's owner, might have been inside. The scene soon froze over, however, which halted the investigation.

The investigation into the cause of the fire was also halted, only permanently. That was announced Monday by the team looking into how the incident got sparked.

"Fire investigators from Prince George Fire Rescue Service have concluded their investigation," said fire chief Jeff Rowland. "Fire investigators were not able to find a cause. The fire will be recorded as undetermined."

The RCMP must carry on their probe, Godwin said, because Martin is not considered a victim of the blaze just yet. He is officially a missing person.

"We're all hoping he is not in there, but we have to do our due diligence so we can say unequivocally yes he was in there or no he wasn't," Godwin said.

The current warm trend is only beneficial on the surface, literally, Godwin clarified.

"There has been a lot of melting, but underneath all that debris everything is still frozen," he said. In order to preserve evidence, he said, investigators need to sift through every inch of ash and soot. Chipping through it is not only time consuming but can destroy the very tiny details police are trying to spot in the tangle of what remains of the building's superstructure.

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