HUNTINGTON, Ind. (WANE) – More than 24 hours later, firefighters are still managing the structure fire at the two-story brick building at the corner of Market and Cherry streets on a report of a fire, across Cherry Street from the Huntington Police Department.
The massive fire began early Wednesday morning and burned strongly for hours. Huntington Fire Department Chief Tim Alberton said Thursday they dealt with small spot fires on the roof about 2 by 2 feet in area that kept flashing up.
“Under normal conditions I think we would have been able to handle it and get it put out before it got to the extent it did, but with the heavy winds we had it was pushing the fire and feeding the fire faster than we could put it out,” Alberton said. “it just got to the point where we were just not able to safely fight it from the inside and that’s when we had to pull out and set up the big trucks and spray tons of water.”
Thursday’s efforts consisted of firefighters taking a ladder up above the building and looking down every half-hour. They’d spray water on any spot they see with fire or smoke. Firefighters kept fighting the fires from above until they got things under control. Then they went inside to finish the job.
Around 5:00 p.m. they began wrapping efforts up. Alberton said they’d check in on things every two hours throughout Thursday night. Friday morning, his department will conduct a thorough investigation of the fire’s cause.
“I’m very thankful that everyone was safe and very appreciative of all the support from the community and from the neighboring fire departments and everyone that just helped out the Huntington Fire Department and the community of Huntington with this loss of this building,” Alberton said.
Next door to the burning structure, dozens of senior citizens at the LaFontaine Center were settling their nerves. They were evacuated the retirement center after massive amounts of smoke took over their building. Manager Rose Meldrum said everyone was overcome with worry.
“I was alarmed for our residents,” she explained. “I didn’t know what kind of damage the LaFontaine Center might endear because of the burning building next door and because of the winds blowing so strongly and towards our building. There was always an opportunity that the fire could jump over here so we kept a close eye on it.”
When Meldrum left for work Wednesday her entire car was covered in ash and the inside of her car smelled heavily of smoke.
Alberton said while the fires were blazing on Wednesday firefighters weren’t sure whether the building would be rebuild-able. Thursday, he said there’s hope that it can be restored.