ELKHART — One person was taken to the hospital with injuries from a fire Friday morning, June 21. Police say the fire was caused by a methamphetamine lab.
According to a press release from the Elkhart Police Department, firefighters were called at 7:40 a.m. to 327 Pottawattomi Drive for a structure fire. Firefighters found items that are often used in meth labs and called police.
Kent Stouder, chief investigator with the Elkhart Fire Department, said the fire started on the third floor. Fire units left the scene about an hour later, but they were called again at 9:22 a.m. on reports that the fire re-kindled. Firefighters started clearing the scene again at about 10:30 a.m.
One person was taken to Elkhart General Hospital with injuries “that were consistent with the event on Pottawattomi,” said the release.
The person was transferred to a hospital outside the area, according to the press release.
Courtney Woolwine, a resident of one of the apartments, said she was doing her hair when she heard a loud explosion, then saw smoke and fire coming from an apartment adjacent to hers.
Bruce Hollowey, Woolwine’s boyfriend, said he ran to their neighbors’ apartments knocking and yelling for them to evacuate the building. Hollowey said he saw some people leaving Apartment 4, where the fire started. He said he also thought one or two of the people leaving were injured.
“They didn’t tell anyone about the fire, they just took off,” he said.
Several neighbors said they saw two men and one woman living in Apartment 4, but officials have not released any information about who was staying in the apartment at the time of the fire.
Woolwine and Hollowey said they thought they had lost all their possessions to the fire. Standing outside the apartments Friday morning, Hollowey said the couple were waiting on the Red Cross to seek shelter.
However, Stouder said after an inspection of the other apartments that only the occupants of Apartment 5 had to be relocated because of water damage to their apartment. Electricity was restored to the other apartments by noon and residents were told they could go back into their apartments.
Structure damage was contained to Apartment 4, where the fire started, Stouder said. The apartment has been deemed uninhabitable.
The building where the fire started has seven apartments and is just north of Langle Park, which has a playground and a basketball court.
This is the second time in two days that police and fire units have been called to a fire caused by meth. Firefighters responded to an apartment fire early Thursday morning at 2701 Ridgewood Drive and discovered a meth lab. A man was taken to Elkhart General Hospital with injuries from the fire.
So far this year police have identified 18 meth-contaminated properties in Elkhart County, without counting the scene of the fire Friday that remains under investigation, said Tara Still, environmentalist with the Elkhart County Health Department.
Indiana Administrative Code 318 requires property owners to clean an area that has been designated by police as a previous meth lab location.
When police identify a meth lab, they forward the information to the health department, which in turn posts an “Unfit for Human Habitation” order outside the property until the it is either demolished or decontaminated.