Many readers will remember a horrendous fire occurring at the Malden Mills fleece fabrication plant in Malden, Mass. The fire happened on or about Christmas Eve and temperatures were so severe that water hydrants and fire hoses froze. The six to seven story building, was an old mill factory with floors and walls soaked with any and all types of fluids. The inability of the firemen to have a reliable water source played a major role. The fire started on the first floor and the building burned to the ground as floor after floor collapsed on the lower floors and equipment below. The ice was so heavy and the fire debris was so deep (50-75 feet) that the site had to be secured until everything thawed the following spring.
During the investigation, a parking lot security camera pointed toward the back of the building, revealed a shadowy figure quickly walking from the rear of the plant across a driveway. Several seconds later, a flash documented the initial explosion in or near the boiler room (at the rear of the plant).
Since there were rumors of labor unrest, it was a concern that the explosion may have been a human initiated event. The remaining plant site debris, several years later, is shown in Photographs A, B, and C below.
The owner, a very generous, benevolent man, quickly announced that since it was Christmas, the workers' salaries and benefits would be continued while the plant was rebuilt.
The wreckage was cleared, much litigation ensued, and eventually a pipe which was rumored to have been found with a loose fitting (coupling) was available for metallurgical investigation.
Evidence, which was deemed possibly important was marked, mapped, and stored in a furniture warehouse for analysis. A view of one of five major storage areas is shown in Photograph D.
Finally, the subject gas line and connections were identified, found and unwrapped. An overall view of the subject gas line nipple is shown in Photograph E.
Visual examination and macrophotography of the subject gas pipe was conducted. The subject gas line was found beneath literally tons of debris and yet the gas line nipple threads were undamaged (as if the connection had indeed been loosened, i.e., there was no thread deformation at the end of the threaded nipple).
However, as these matters often go, the litigants became entrapped in their own webs and a bankruptcy judge resolved the whole matter without further metallurgical investigation. The question of the shadowy figure was never resolved.