Madison courthouse damaged in fire - 13 WTHR Indianapolis

Madison courthouse damaged in fire

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Pictures courtesy WAVE-TV, Louisville, KY Pictures courtesy WAVE-TV, Louisville, KY
Madison - Firefighters from two states responded to fight a massive downtown fire at a historic building Wednesday evening.

It started in the golden dome of the 154-year-old Jefferson County Courthouse. Fire crews from across southern Indiana and northern Kentucky were called to the scenic Ohio River city to battle the blaze that was reported about 6 p.m. Smoke billowed hundreds of feet into the air and flames shot out the top of the building.

Jefferson County Prosecutor Chad Lewis said crews had been renovating the dome and had just finished painting it in preparation for Madison's bicentennial, June 6-14. At this point fire investigators still don't know how the fire started.

No one was inside the building when the fire started, but prisoners who are kept in a building adjacent to the courthouse had to be evacuated. They were transported to another location by bus. The entire downtown area was blocked off while firefighters worked to control the flames.

City council members say it's hard to tell what's been damaged or lost inside the historic building until they get inside.

Madison residents gathered downtown to watch with heavy hearts as a piece of their town's history burned. Five hours after smoke was first spotted, the fire was still smoldering and not much remained of the golden dome.

"It gets to the heart of Madison, really. A lot of heartache's going on right now. You can see the community comes together and they'll recover," said a male resident.

"It's pretty bad. This is one of the oldest buildings in Madison, Indiana. It's a severe loss," said a woman.

"To live here and to lose a monument to the history of our town, I mean, our government was set up early on because we were considered for the first capital of Indiana and we have a lot of pride here and this is our bicentennial year," said another woman.

Another issue for the council is where to hold court now that their courthouse is damaged.

An August 2006 fire damaged two other downtown buildings, including the former city hall.

The city of about 12,000 is designated a National Register Historic District, according to Historic Madison Inc.'s Web site.

This story was compiled from a live report by Emily Longnecker. Pictures courtesy WAVE-TV in Louisville, KY.

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