Buildings burn, collapse in downtown LaGrange

Boil water advisory issued

LAGRANGE, Ind. (WANE) – Several buildings in downtown LaGrange caught fire Tuesday morning and burned throughout the day.

Firefighters grapple with a fire in downtown LaGrange on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2017.

LaGrange County dispatchers said around 10 a.m., a fire was reported in a series of three buildings housing a Family Dollar store, Gould Sports and an ethnic grocer, in the 100 block of North Detroit Street.

Pictures and video provided to NewsChannel 15 showed smoke rising high from the aged building.

Although people were asked to avoid the downtown area, dozens of onlookers came out to see the large fire.

“It’s really a tragic thing that’s happening,” LaGrange resident Sarah Giles said. “People are losing their homes that had apartments up top, and even their jobs.”

Several hours after fighting the fire the building housing the Family Dollar store collapsed. However, the neighboring businesses, Gould Sports and Santa Cruz Tienda, continued to burn. The roof of the sporting goods store collapsed and firefighters were trying to prevent the whole thing from collapsing.

“It all of a sudden just dropped down,” onlooker Phil Snead said. “The fire just destroyed everything.”

LaGrange Volunteer Fire Department Chief Dave Elick said the old buildings were their biggest hurdles.

“Over time those firewalls have been purged with remodeling, with heating and ventilation systems, mechanical runs, then when the firewalls were removed where they were breached were never sealed back up,” Elick said. “That’s what led to the spread of this.”

Elick also said crews used a lot of the town’s water supply to fight the fire so a boil order was in effect for the Town of LaGrange.

Within the heavy smoke, you could see a community coming together. Several businesses, community members and family members of the firefighters brought water and food to help fuel the firefighters in the more than 12 hours battle with the fire.

Several fire departments responded throughout the day.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

While firefighters battled the blaze, the town of LaGrange issued a boil water advisory in the town. Officials said water levels had fallen.

After school activities at nearby Lakeland High School were canceled, as well.

This story will be updated when more information becomes available.