Property owners of Elkhart buildings damaged by fire have up to 90 days to clean debris
Posted: 10/25/2012 at 1:15 am
By: Sharon Hernandez
Firefighters responded to a building fire at 165 East St. around 2 a.m. Sept. 23, and had it under control after two hours. The LifeLine — Youth for Christ Community building on the south side of the block, and an apartment building on the north side received extensive damage. The old shoe store building, which was determined to be the origin of the fire, was completely destroyed.
Elkhart City Building Commissioner Dennis Mann said the owners of the old shoe shop building and the apartments have up to 90 days since the fire department completes their report to clean the debris. If they fail to clean their property, the city will take action under law to have the buildings torn down or fixed.
The LifeLine Center building’s insurance company will take care of cleaning some of the debris, but neither the owner of the old shoe store building or the apartment building had insurance at the time of the fire.
East Street continues to be blocked off from traffic, and Chief Kent Stouder, fire investigator for the Elkhart Fire Department, said concrete borders were placed on each side of the block to prevent drivers from crossing the area.
Stouder said his report was completed and turned over to the Police Department, but the fire department was not able to establish a cause for the fire.
Stouder said previously that investigators had several leads but declined to speculate at the time. Neighbors had told him they heard explosions coming from the store. Others said they saw a man running down the alley about the time the fire broke out.
The insurance company for the LifeLine Center building is conducting a private investigation, but Stouder has not been notified of a determination of the cause, he said.
Three occupants of the apartment building were taken to the St. Joseph Burn Center in Fort Wayne. Robert Nicodemus is doing better, but he is still healing from his wounds, said Tanya Ferguson, Nicodemus’s sister. She said he had two exterior burns, but he also suffered internal burns from smoke inhalation.
Stouder said Brian Higginbotham was sent to a nursing home. Sherry Higginbotham was also discharged from the burn center, but Stouder said he does not know where she was transferred.
The apartment building is uninhabitable. Although one apartment was not severely damaged by the fire, Stouder said the building was too dangerous for anyone to live in any of the apartments.