Combusting towels ignited Philmore fire

Charred rags and insulation sit outside the condemned Philmore Monday.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fire officials say Saturday’s fire at the historic Philmore on Broadway started after hot towels ignited in a confined area.  The Fort Wayne Fire Department has ruled the cause as accidental.

A spokeswoman with FWFD said the hot towels were taken out of a dryer.  The heat didn’t have anywhere to go because the towels were placed in a confined space, which caused them to ignite.

Fire crews responded to the fire on 2441 Broadway a little before 7:00 p.m. Saturday.  They had the scene under control in less than twenty minutes.

The battalion chief on scene told NewsChannel 15 that the fire possibly started in the kitchen.  There were no injuries, and nobody was inside during the time of the fire.

As of Monday afternoon, the Philmore was labeled as condemned by Fort Wayne Neighborhood Code.

The restored historical venue is commonly used for wedding receptions, rehearsal dinners, corporate events, and unique artists who play for public events.  Mandie Kolkman is the event director for the Philmore on Broadway.  She said leaders with the venue hope to have it ready to reopen before its Mother’s Day banquet on May 11.

“It’s very unique and I work in it every day so my heart just kind of goes out to the walls.  I love it and you just don’t want to see any damage occur,” Kolkman said.  “We’re really fortunate there really isn’t that much smoke damage and the city understands the historical contribution of the Philmore and has been fantastic at helping us reach our goal at reopening as soon as possible.”

Kolkman said because of the fire, the Philmore had to cancel on a bride who had her wedding booked at the venue this upcoming weekend.

“Our heart does go out to a bride who had her wedding booked at our facility,” Kolkman said.  “We are doing everything that we can to help her find another location for her wedding and she is being very understanding and fantastic to work for.”

A restoration crew with Protechs, Inc. was on site inspecting the damage Monday.  A leader with the crew said most of the historical aspects of the structure weren’t damaged, but there are scorch marks on the ceiling.  Charred rags and insulation sit outside the back of the building as well.

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