News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 29, 2013

Fire destroys apartment house


The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A fire in the 1300 block of Chestnut Street early Monday destroyed a two-story apartment house and displaced several residents.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, said Jeff Fisher, Terre Haute city fire chief. All occupants safely escaped.

The building contained five apartments, and four were occupied. The house had to be demolished for safety reasons.  The east wall of the two-story building collapsed during the fire, and the west wall was bowed out, making the structure too dangerous for firefighters or investigators to enter, Fisher said. The roof collapsed in the fire.

By late afternoon, the house was almost completely demolished, with nothing but rubble left behind.

Fisher said investigators will have to depend upon witness reports to get information about where the fire started in the building.

A team from the American Red Cross was collecting information about the displaced residents in an effort to get aid and shelter arranged for those who need it.

The apartment house’s owner, Mark Oster, was at the scene as the building was being demolished late Monday afternoon. While the cause remains under investigation, “It’s very likely the fire was set,” he said.

A neighbor who lives next door, Danny Montgomery, said that after the fire broke out, he was awakened by his fiancee’s daughter.

“When we came out, the whole building was on fire. Everyone was screaming and yelling” and making sure everyone was out of the apartment house, he said. “We gave a few clothing items and cigarettes to help out.”

He and other members of his household had to evacuate their home because of concerns it also could catch fire, he said.

Stephanie Land, the Red Cross emergency services director, estimated the agency assisted 17 people affected by the fire, including several children.

Not all of those in the building were listed as tenants, she said.

In two of the apartments, there were were “several generations living together,” she said.  That’s not unusual, Land said. “The way the economy is, we see more and more families having to move in with each other. They can’t maintain different residences.”

Anyone wanting to offer assistance to the occupants can contact the Wabash Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross at 812-232-3393.

“People lost everything,” she said.

Red Cross assisted with hotel lodging, food and clothing. “We also work with Goodwill and our community partners to supplement what we do,” Land said.

It appeared many of those affected by Monday’s fire would be able to find a place to stay, possibly with relatives, she said.



You Can Help

• Anyone wanting to offer assistance to the occupants can contact the Wabash Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross at 812-232-3393.