Saturday, 2:15 PM
Search begins for remains of man, 70, killed in Gloucester fire
By John R. Ellement, Globe Staff
GLOUCESTER -- A crew wearing white, full-body protective suits and respirators began the tedious work of loading charred debris by hand into wheelbarrows as the search began today for the remains of a 70-year-old handyman who perished in an eight-alarm blaze on Dec. 14.
State and federal officials were joined by volunteers as they combed through 20-foot-tall mounds of wood, pipe, metal, and other charred debris that was once the Lorraine Apartments and Cape Ann's only synagogue.
"The ultimate goal for today is to recover the remains of Mr. Robert Taylor," said Chief Barry McKay of the Gloucester Fire Department.
The search has been postponed several times by bad weather and the holidays. Fire officials erected two yellow Quonset-style tents to sort debris. Residents have stuck red and white flowers in the temporary chain link fence that surrounds the site, which still smells of charred wood.
The Lorraine Apartments, which were home to 27 people, are completely gone. A white railing and a window frame on a rear wall is the only part of the Temple Ahavat Achim synagogue that is still recognizable. Department of Environmental Protection testing shows that wreckage is laden with asbestos, which requires a specially licensed contractor. The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined.
Government agencies have made financial assistance available for residents displaced by the fire. The Small Business Administration is providing low-interest loans for tenants and businesses. Disaster relief officials will be available on the second floor of the Cape Ann Savings Bank in Gloucester from Jan. 2 to Jan. 10. Call (978) 283-0246 for more information.
The Gloucester Fund has been accepting donations and says it will distribute $70,000 among tenants of the Lorraine Apartments.
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