Massive fire destroys downtown Huntington building

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – Fire crews battled a large structure fire at a downtown Huntington building much of the day Wednesday.

A fire was reported at a downtown Huntington building on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.

Firefighters were called just after 8 a.m. to a building at the corner of Market and Cherry streets on a report of a fire, across Cherry Street from the Huntington Police Department. Heavy smoke billowed high from the two-story brick building, which contained several apartments and a century-old law office on the ground level.

“We started doing interior offensive attack at first and then we had to move to a defensive attack once the roof started to basically cave in on itself,” Huntington City Assistant Fire Chief Wayne Huff said.

As many as 60 to 75 firefighters from all across the area helped fight the fire, made worse by the intense winds.

“That’s what’s feeding the fire,” Huff said about the winds. “Anytime you have wind that pushes and drives in the attic space like that makes it very difficult. Oxygen is part of what feeds and fuels fire.”

Several streets in the city’s downtown were shut down as crews worked the fire. Most of downtown also lost power. Smoke filled several blocks and caught the attention of people passing by.

“We were at mass up at Peter and Paul’s Church up on the hill and we saw flames shooting out,” Dan Bickel said.

“This is total devastation,” Aaron Mason, who was in the courthouse when it lost power, said

Crews believe the fire started in the attic, but aren’t sure yet how it started. Stan Matheny used to own the building and works in the law office on the first floor.

“It’s a tragedy,” Matheny said. “Thankfully no one’s life has been lost. Most of the things can be recreated.”

Mayor Brooks Fetters said it hurts to see such a historic building damaged, but said the community will always come together to help.

“We’re doing what we do when there’s a public emergency and that is rally all the troops together and try to minimize the damage, preserve life and make sure everything is moving along in a good way,” Fetters said.

No injuries have been reported, according to Huff. The nearby Huntington City-Township Public Library opened space for residents to take refuge.

Mayor Brooks Fetters (R-Huntington) released the following statement Wednesday night:

It was a full day of hard work and effort in Huntington today. Kudos to the Huntington City Fire Department for their tireless professional and persistent efforts today to contain a serious downtown fire against some fierce winds.

As Mayor, I want to thank several other fire departments who stepped up and helped where needed today. The results would not have been as positive without your help. Thanks to Southwest Fire District for showing up with their tower truck. Thanks to Bippus Volunteer Fire Department and Roanoke Volunteer Fire Dept. for coming our way with equipment and man power. Thanks to Andrews Volunteer Fire Department and Huntington Township Fire Department for being on standby for our City Stations 3 and 1, respectfully.

Thanks to the Huntington City Police Department, The Huntington County Sheriff’s Department & County Jail, Huntington County Homeland Security/Emergency Management, American Red Cross, Huntington City Services, Huntington City Utilities, Huntington City-Township Public Library, Huntington County Disaster Team, Huntington County Dispatch, Parkview Huntington Hospital, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the countless citizens and businesses who helped assist persons displaced by the fire and smoke, as well as the food and other items brought in to help provide nourishment to the firefighters and first responders.

Today was a day of many fires accelerated by the winds – special thoughts are with the Bippus and Roanoke Departments tonight – who after helping with the downtown fire, had to deal with grass and structure fires as well. The winds also damaged a large section of the brick Veneer at the former Marsh store along Henry Street.

Our thoughts are with the tenants and businesses whose lives have been upended by this unfortunate event. The HFD is still at work putting out the last of the hotspots and making certain nothing rekindles overnight.

At the end of this difficult day, the people who make up the broader Huntington community took care of business, and took care of each other.

Thanks to everyone who did something!

For the Love of Huntington,
Mayor Brooks Fetters