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May 1, 2014

Crews battle large fire

Southside structure burns into night; cause unknown

TERRE HAUTE — Terre Haute firefighters battled a huge blaze Wednesday night at a vacant one-story warehouse on the city’s south side.

Firefighters were alerted to the fire at about 8:30 p.m. and at 10:15 p.m. called it “under control,” according to fire department scanner traffic.

Several Terre Haute fire trucks, including tanker trucks and ladder trucks, were on the scene near 13th and Voorhees streets, as many onlookers watched the blaze ravage about half of the inside of the warehouse, with flames reaching the roof of the building. The roof also collapsed.

At shortly after 10 p.m., a Terre Haute Street Department backhoe, which the fire department called in for assistance, was being used to break through garage doors in the building to allow firefighters access to the inside of the building, according to scanner traffic.

At the fire’s peak, heavy, dark smoke could be seen in the sky from a distance.

The cause of the fire was still unknown, Capt. Norm Loudermilk of the Arson Task Force told the Tribune-Star at the scene. He could not confirm whether or not anyone was inside the building at the time of the fire.

Because the building was structurally compromised when flames reached the roof, firefighters had not been inside the building during the first hour of fighting the fire. Using ladder trucks and other equipment, they battled the fire from all angles.

John Lewis, who said he has lived in South 13th Street for 55 years, said he remembers the building housing the Branch Motor Freight Co. in the 1970s. There may have been other companies that occupied it since then, he added.

“It’s been vacant for many years,” he said.

Another onlooker, who also lived in the area and decline to be identified, said the building used to be a mechanic’s shop “back in the day,” about 20 or so years ago.

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