Fire marshal: Air-gas explosion caused collapse at Selden Arcade

NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The Norfolk Fire Marshal’s Office says the partial building collapse at Selden Arcade last month was due to an air-gas type of explosion.

The investigation isn’t over yet, but fire marshals have ruled out any type of explosive device or malicious attack being involved.

Preliminary report: Selden Arcade explosion

The explosion happened around 8 p.m. April 17 on the East Plume Street side of the building. Interior sections of the building received significant structural damage: windows were blown out and several interior walls collapsed.

Investigators learned a private company was trying to access a sewer line in the northeast section of the building earlier in the day. At that work site, fire marshals found damage to electrical lines that provide power to Selden Arcade. They believe an electrical short may have caused that damage.

Fire marshals say there was likely some heat build up and that caused some “off-gas,” like carbon monoxide that a lawn mower gives off when it is running. If there is no proper ventilation in a situation like that, an explosion can occur.

Investigators also said the central blast area was in the building’s electrical closet.

This preliminary report comes after several weeks of fire investigators conducting interviews and analyzing samples, documents and other evidence. A final report will be released when the investigation is complete, which may not be for another several weeks.

Selden Arcade, a cultural arts building with office spaces, remains closed for repairs. The D ’Art Center, D’ Egg Diner, and Starbucks were closed for several weeks before reopening last week.

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