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Demolition of fire-damaged Valparaiso building continues

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Updated: April 7, 2013 6:20AM



VALPARAISO — A chain-link fence will go up Wednesday around the site of a demolished downtown building that was seriously damaged in a fire Monday morning.

All but the east wall of the two-story building, which is adjacent to another building, had been demolished by Tuesday.

Demolition became necessary due to the damage caused by the fire, called into the Valparaiso Fire Department at 1:29 a.m. Monday.

Contractors for the building’s insurance company will install the fence, said Building Commissioner Vicki Thrasher said.

She said additional work to tear down what remains of the building at 204 Lincolnway was put on hold by the snowstorm.

Demolition of the east wall will most likely begin Wednesday, though it will be slower than the teardown of the rest of the building because of the adjacent building. That could take three to four days, Thrasher said.

Firefighters were on the scene continuously until 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, when all the spot fires had been extinguished, said Dan Lamb, the Fire Department assistant chief and fire investigator.

The last time his department faced a fire of such magnitude that required demolition was in 1996, when the Highland Department Store building on Franklin Street burned down.

While Lincolnway is now open, Michigan Avenue will remain closed from Lincolnway to Indiana Avenue until the demolition is complete and city officials feel the area is safe.

“We don’t have an end on that,” Thrasher said.

Nine occupant businesses were gutted along with the building, which was constructed in 1905. Gas and electric service to surrounding businesses had been completely restored by Northern Indiana Public Service Co. by Tuesday afternoon, Thrasher said.

Whether the cause of the fire will be determined remains to be seen.

A representative from the state fire marshal’s office was on the scene Tuesday morning, but, given how extensive the fire was, Lamb could not be certain officials would know what caused it.

“Sometimes we do not know what starts a fire, but I do know the building was secure,” he said, noting the building went through a routine fire inspection last week and nothing appeared amiss.

What’s next for the site also is up in the air.

“It’s too soon to tell,” Thrasher said.

“That’s more up to the owners and the insurance company. Obviously, the city would love to see something done very quickly, but we have very little control over that.”



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