Building fire closes downtown streets

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Indianapolis - Fire destroyed a vacant building downtown late Monday night. Now crews are tearing down that building, forcing traffic to reroute.

Three southbound lanes on Pennsylvania are now open again. Traffic was being rerouted at 12th Street to avoid the area into the early afternoon.

The traffic changes caused major backups Tuesday morning on Pennsylvania downtown, as well as I-70 westbound. I-70 was backed up from downtown to I-465 on the east side.

The fire broke out in the vacant apartment known as the Chadwick building shortly after 11:00 pm Monday. 70 firefighters responded and surrounded the building to contain heavy flames on the south side of the four story brick structure.

Fire could be seen blowing out of nearly every window and the roof, but crews were able to keep the flames from spreading to any surrounding buildings. Jarrett Engineering stands next door to the vacant building.

"We lucked out, seriously. We seriously lucked out," said Greg Day, owner of Jarrett Engineering. "We dodged a bullet, we're real thankful for that. The fire department last night, they were just incredible."

Firefighters poured hundreds of thousands of gallons of water on the blaze and laid thousands of feet of hose in the street. They fought the blaze from five aerial ladders and three hand lines.

A short time into the battle, a wall on the south side of the building collapsed.

Crews managed to get the fire under control in about two hours, but continued to spray water on the building to keep hot spots from flaring up.

Firefighters say this is the third fire at the building in the last ten years. They say the blaze started on the third floor of the building and estimate the damage to be $750,000, a total loss.

Investigators were still unsure Tuesday how the fire started. While the building had been vacant for several years, homeless people had been known to seek shelter inside from time to time.

There were reports of people inside the building making warming fires.

"No, I'm not surprised. It's cold," said Fred Lawrence, who was recently homeless himself. "I understand somebody wanting to stay warm, but you have to use common sense."

While no one was hurt and fire was kept from spreading, there are larger concerns. Of the nearly 800 fires in Indianapolis last year, close to 100 were in vacant structures.

"If the building is not taken care of, the integrity is unknown," said IFD Capt. Rita Burris.

That puts firefighters at greater risk for harm, forcing them to fight from outside.

Indiana Landmarks says the building is known as the Chadwick. It was built in 1923 and was an example of Georgian Revival architecture. It was named after Charles D. Chadwick, the building's blind developer. Chadwick also developed a building that housed the Indiana Board of Industrial Aid for the Blind.

Crews spent Tuesday demolishing the building. It is anticipated that 10th Street will be closed from Delaware to Pennsylvania through most of the day Tuesday.

The fire remains under investigation.

More from IFD:

Due to the severely compromised structural integrity of the building, the IFD and the Department of Code Enforcement have made the decision to tear down the entire 100 x 500 square foot building. The primary concern at this point is the safety of the citizen's and any secondary collapse that could occur.

The Department of Code Enforcement has been on the scene since 2:30 am analyzing the compromised building as well as consulting with structural engineers to determine any safety hazards and how best to deal with the situation.

The Indianapolis Fire Department and the Department of Code Enforcement established a working partnership in April 2010 in response to the number of fires occurring in vacant structures and the concern for citizen safety once the fire is put out. Not simply just a cosmetic issue of the blight that occurs to the neighborhood when a fire damages a structure, but a genuine concern for anyone who might try to enter a damaged structure or be injured by a secondary collapse as they live in the area.

Under the direction of Deputy Director-Division of Inspections Emily Mack, the Department of Code Enforcement demolished 26 residences and 2 buildings at the request of IFD in 2010. This working partnership is vital to the safety of both citizen's and firefighters as the IFD, Department of Public Safety and the City of Indianapolis continue to tackle the issue of vacant homes/ buildings damaged by fire or unsafe practices.