Firefighters and cadaver-sniffing dogs were unable yesterday to locate the remains of the man believed to be the sole victim of an eight-alarm Gloucester blaze earlier this month.
While searchers did find "items of interest" that were sent to a lab for analysis, they did not find the remains of Robert Taylor, 70, said Gloucester Deputy Fire Chief Miles Schlichte.
Taylor probably perished in the blaze that destroyed a 25-unit apartment complex and the city's only synagogue.
Dogs from the Massachusetts State Police Canine Unit and the Massachusetts Urban Search and Rescue Unit honed in on one area yesterday, said Schlichte, and heavy equipment was used to remove large pieces of debris.
Then, as searchers got closer to the source of the dog's interest, they used their hands, ultimately sifting through fine material.
But Schlichte said dogs may have sniffed out the remains of tenants' pets. "They could be small animals," he said.
The blaze on Middle Street broke out shortly before midnight on Dec. 14.
Largely because of financial problems, a single firefighter was forced to drive a ladder truck to the blaze alone. Normally, a team of five is assigned to the 38-foot truck.
A firefighter climbed into Taylor's apartment but was unable to carry him out before the fire forced the firefighter out of the apartment.
Taylor was a handyman at a nearby church and is remembered by friends as a gentle, generous man who recently paid and cooked for 90 people attending a charity dinner.
Schlichte said the search was suspended at dark yesterday and probably would not resume today because snow is in the forecast.