News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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July 19, 2013

House without utilities burns for second time in last year

TERRE HAUTE — The big fire next door wasn’t altogether new for Dennis and Sheila Dugger of South Center Street in Terre Haute.

In fact, the two-story apartment house immediately next door to their own historic Farrington’s Grove home had been ablaze before – less than a year before.

No one was injured in Thursday afternoon’s fire, the second at the home in the 700 block of South Center Street within the past year. At the time of the first fire, it was after dark and the temperature was very cold. This time, the fire took place in the early afternoon on a day temperatures were in the 90s, creating difficult conditions for the emergency responders on the scene.

The fire remained under investigation, said Nick Sarris, battalion chief, adding it was “suspicious” because electricity and gas were not hooked up at the house.

While the earlier fire left the house standing – if uninhabited – this time the fire seemed to do much more damage, with most of the roof burned away.

Early on, firefighters were inside the home when Sarris gave the order for his crews to evacuate the structure.

“It got ugly,” Sarris said of the fire at the time he decided to radio his crews to leave. Fire trucks at the scene also sounded their horns loudly, which is also a signal to evacuate, he explained. Because the home was abandoned, there was no point in taking big risks with the safety of his crew, he said.

“We risk a lot to save a lot. We risk a little to save a little,” Sarris said standing outside the still-smoldering structure.

Neighbor Sheila Dugger said she noticed the home immediately north of her historic home burning a little before 2 p.m. Thursday and called 911. Others living in the area said they have recently seen people inside the abandoned home, in some cases removing items.

The home has been abandoned for many months, they said.

No firefighters were hurt fighting the blaze, although many clearly were feeling the intense heat of the day.

Thick smoke, black and gray at different times, poured from the house as firefighters battled the blaze for more than an hour. Crews directed powerful streams of water onto the house from several locations, including high above the ground from an extension ladder.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@tribstar.com

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