Cause of blaze that killed New Carlisle firefighter ruled 'undetermined'

Assistant Chief Jamie Middlebrook of the New Carlisle Fire Department died of blunt force trauma while battling a blaze Aug. 5.

Posted on Aug. 21, 2014 at 11:30 a.m.

The cause of a business fire that led to the death of a New Carlisle volunteer firefighter has officially been ruled as “undetermined” by the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS).

Jamie Middlebrook, assistant chief for the New Carlisle Fire Department, died of blunt force trauma from a falling roof while battling a blaze Aug. 5 at K-Fex, a septic pumping business in LaPorte County.

“There was simply too much damage to the structure to provide a different ruling,” Jim Greeson, state fire marshal, said in a press release. “At this time we do not suspect any foul play, but there is not enough evidence to list the fire as accidental. A ruling of undetermined is not unusual. While we would have liked to provide a more definitive final determination, the evidence has led us to this point.”

The investigation found that flames moved from the south building to the north building and into the attic, which was painted metal and allowed the fire to burn undetected above the firefighters on scene.

The roof collapsed from direct flames to wooden trusses, and structural wiring revealed flame damage, according to the IDHS.

Electrical conductors could not be ruled out as possible ignition sources, according to an electrical engineer who assisted in the investigation.

The IDHS was assisted in their investigation by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Kankakee Township Fire Department; LaPorte County Sheriff’s Department; the New Carlisle Police Department; and insurance companies.

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