One Elkhart firefighter hurt battling Monday blaze

Elkhart Fire Department responds to a fire at 1444 Olive St.
Posted on April 1, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on April 2, 2013 at 10:57 a.m.

ELKHART — Firefighters initially thought a methamphetamine lab accident caused a fire on the north side of Elkhart on Monday afternoon, April 1.

The Elkhart Fire Department responded around 1:30 p.m. to a fire at 1444 Olive Ave.

On the upper level, the building houses Jameson-Lee & Associates, a trucking division of a nationwide company, according to the company’s web site. An apartment is on the lower level.

Paul Jameson-Lee, owner of the building, said employees started smelling smoke and realized it was coming from the apartment.

All the employees in the offices of the upper-floor left the building as soon as they saw the thick smoke.

Jameson-Lee said none of the employees were injured. However, a cat died inside the building. Another cat that was missing for while was able to escape uninjured.

Fire investigator Tony Balzano was still looking for the cause of the fire as of Monday afternoon, but he said the fire and police departments ruled out the theory that a meth lab could have caused the fire.

“At first we had questions about some of the things we found in the building,” he said.

The Elkhart Police Department’s Drug Unit was called to evaluate the scene.

The suspicion of a meth lab prompted firefighters to leave the building while police checked the area. During that time, the fire crept through the pipe chase, an area between the walls where the pipes run, and up to the roof, Balzano said.

Firefighters used a ladder to open up some space on the roof to tackle the flames.

The fire was out by 3:54 p.m. Balzano said the building sustained 50 to 60 percent structural damage.

Firefighters found pyrotechnic supplies inside the apartment. However, Balzano said he had not determined at that time whether the fire started because of the pyrotechnic materials.

The fire department started clearing the scene at about 5 p.m.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined, according to a news release issued by the Elkhart Fire Department shortly before 8 p.m. Monday.

One firefighter suffered a shoulder injury while working on the fire but was released by a doctor.

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