I-Team: Businesses rocked by Durham explosion condemned, could take months to reopen

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Building inspectors on Friday posted several condemning businesses in and around the piles of rubble left from this week's gas explosion in downtown Durham.

Saint James Seafood and Torero's Restaurant are two popular eateries now cordoned off by lines of yellow and red police tape.

"It's just sadness," James Kakalec, a Torero's fan, told ABC11. "It's almost a surreal feeling the way I see the building the way it is now."

In addition to the restaurants, officials also condemned Duke University offices on West Main Street, among others in the three-block radius surrounding 115 N. Duke St.

"Durham has been such a big part of my life for so many years," Kakalec said, and he added that he'll be among the first patrons if and when Torero's reopens. "It's such a wonderful place and so many memories especially here at this restaurant."

Torero's, however, may be months - if not years - away from reopening. With the building condemned, the red brick structure is off limits to almost everyone. If a building has a "No Occupancy" sticker, repair crews and even staff can enter the premises, but not if it's condemned.

Tom Caldwell was one of the first structural specialists to inspect the area Wednesday as part of the team sent by the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management. He's also been on teams sent to disaster zones in Puerto Rico, Haiti and New Orleans.

"We look at the overall skeleton or framework of the building and see what has been lost," Caldwell tells ABC11. "A brick wall, a concrete wall, a steel beam. These things overhead if they're lose are going to cause serious injury."

Caldwell's crew was primarily focused on finding safe entrances for first responders racing to search for any potential survivors of the blast.

Now a few days later, he says it's up to city and county inspectors to engage with stakeholders to assess the future viability of the structures.

Any repairs require a laundry list of permits and inspections, including plumbing, electrical, HVAC and fire safety, among others.

"You wouldn't want to have a short circuit," Caldwell adds. "The wiring and electrical and circuits and breakers - they need a good looking over after an incident of this kind."
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