Investigators look for clues in massive apartment fire
Jeremy Brilliant/Eyewitness News
Speedway - Tenants at the International Village Apartments are trying to cope with their loss one day after a fire destroyed their homes and all of their belongings.
Investigators were back at the scene Tuesday to determine what started the massive west side fire. Flames and smoke destroyed 36 units at the apartment complex, displacing some two dozen families. The complex is in Speedway near 29th Street and I-465.
It's still uncertain what caused the fire. Investigators say it will likely take them several days to pinpoint a cause. In the meantime, many residents are trying to start their lives from scratch.
Piles of donated clothes and household items were placed outside the apartments Tuesday to replace what families lost in Monday afternoon's massive fire.
"Everybody just started pitching in, I guess they felt sorry and it's a tragic thing," said Bernice Rodriguez, resident.
"I was just praying for other people, like ain't nobody in there, I hope everybody's safe. It's just unbelievable," said Erica Kline, resident.
Kline moved to International Village just last month after fire destroyed her apartment in Gary. She's thankful to be okay, but dazed about her bad luck.
"I just couldn't believe it," she said.
The blaze destroyed 36 units. While three firefighters received minor injuries, investigators say it's miraculous no one was seriously hurt or killed.
Tuesday morning, firefighters continued to douse hot spots while others tried to determine the cause. It's still unclear where the fire began or how, but arson, officials say, is unlikely.
When residents smelled smoke Monday afternoon, instead of calling 911, they called the apartment management office. The office sent someone out to see what was going on and then finally called for help. By then, the fire had about a 15-minute head start.
When firefighters arrived, flames were shooting through the roof. It took some four hours to put it out. By that time, nearly everything was gone.
"With the delay with the 911 and the head start it had on us coupled with the 25-30 mile per hour winds, it just got up and swept through it," said Chief Curtis Dean, Speedway Fire Department.
Three weeks ago, county and town inspectors found more than 250 code violations at the complex - mostly water damage and an infestation of cockroaches. They say they found nothing that would cause a fire.
No matter how it started, the damage is done. The focus for many now is how to move on.
"Just keep praying and it will all work out," said Kline.
A total of 20 families, some 60 people, were displaced by the fire.
The apartment complex has made arrangements for all of them to move to new units by Wednesday. The Red Cross has provided assistance to give them money for basic necessities, in some cases that includes money for their first month's rent because many of the residents lost cash savings in the fire.