Lower Windsor Township officials will start planning this week for a new public works building, but they'll never know for sure what what caused the fire that destroyed their old one.
Investigators are unable to determine the cause of last Thursday's fire and explosions, said Trooper Bradley Dunham, a state police fire marshal.
Dunham said the blaze was not criminal in nature, and it started in the rear of the building. But beyond that, the damage was too extensive to gather more information.
Lower Windsor Police Chief Tim Caldwell said officials had prepared themselves for never knowing why the fire started.
"There was not activity going on that particular day that was outside the perimeters of what the guys do in that shop every day. ..." he said. "Generally in devastation such as this, you can pinpoint an area where it might've started ... but as of a cause, because the destruction is so thorough, it's almost impossible to find out what caused it to happen."
Total loss: Insurance companies visited the site and declared the building and equipment "a total loss," but a dollar-amount has not been established. Officials are still trying to assess the extent of the loss, Caldwell said.
"We don't even have shovels anymore," he said. "All of our shovels are gone."
Also lost in the fire were five personal vehicles that belonged to employees who had parked them alongside the Walnut
Valley Court building before they left to work on roads.
"At the end of the day, we can be so very thankful that nobody was in that building," he said. "Cars ... and equipment can be replaced."
Re-establish department: While there are still unknowns, the township must work quickly to move forward and re-establish a highway department, Caldwell said.
Contingency plans are being developed for the late summer and fall months, including what to do if there's an early snow while the township has no equipment, he said.
Windsor and Chanceford townships and others have offered to lend equipment, and residents shouldn't see an appreciable difference in service, the chief said.
Longer term plans are expected to be discussed at a 6:30 p.m. board of supervisors meeting Thursday at the township's nearby office building, 2425 Craley Road.
Residents, who Caldwell said have shown a deep interest in the plight of the township, are invited to attend.
"This is a big event for people in this area," he said. "This is a small country community ... I think at the end of the day, they look at it like, 'Hey, that's our property. That's the people's stuff.'"
Massive fire: Township manager Maureen Hartman said Township officials are leaning toward removing debris from the site and rebuilding there.
All that remained of the township's fleet of more than 12 vehicles are two pickup trucks and a Bush Hog, all of which were out on the road at the time, she said.
The building and equipment were destroyed after multiple explosions accompanied a massive fire that burned for more than two hours.
Between 30 and 40 fire companies and departments from York and Lancaster counties responded to the blasts on Walnut Valley Court, in the area of Hakes Hollow and Snyder Corner Road.
Crews were called to the scene shortly before 8 a.m. The fire was mostly out shortly after 10 a.m.
There were no injuries, save one firefighter who was treated at York Hospital for heat exhaustion.
Hartman said, coincidentally, Thursday's meeting is a pre-scheduled annual recognition event for the township's emergency personnel.
-- Reach Christina Kauffman at email@example.com.