Elkhart Fire Department on scene at house fire west of downtown

Elkhart Fire Department was called to the 500 block of S. Fifth Street shortly after 8 a.m. Wednesday.

Posted on Oct. 23, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on Oct. 23, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.

ELKHART — The Elkhart Fire Department is investigating a fire that severely damaged parts of a residence near downtown Elkhart.

Fire officials said they were called to 520 S. Fifth St. at 8:03 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23. Upon arrival, they found smoke pouring out of the two-story house.

Shaun Edgerton, assistant chief of the Elkhart Fire Department, said fire crews also saw fire coming out of the south side of the house.

Fire investigator Tony Balzano said the fire started in the first floor in the back apartment.

He deemed the fire accidental, but he said he could not specify the cause of the fire.

The back apartment in the first floor was fully engulfed in flames at some point, and the apartment in the second floor received some damage too.

Courtney Hails, who rents the house with two other people, said that she was home with another person when the fire began. Hails said she turned a heater on and went to check on something else.

When she returned to the heater, she saw a fire had started. Hails and the other resident said they used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire, but it didn’t work. By the time the two tried to use water, the fire was too big. They called the fire department and left the building.

Balzano confirmed that an electric heater was on in the house, but he could not determine whether it was the heater that caused the fire.

The fire was under control by 8:32 a.m., firefighters said. By 8:50 a.m., fire crews were taking the siding out of the house to avoid any extensions.

A neighbor at the scene offered Hails her house to stay in while firefighters worked to control the fire.

Balzano said the residents had to be removed from their home. They are being helped by the Elkhart County Red Cross.

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