CULVER — The ‘unsafe building’ located at 415 Lake Shore Drive in Culver was engulfed in flames Wednesday afternoon. Emergency responders and fire fighters from Culver, Leiter’s Ford, Monterey and Plymouth were on site to quench the fire and protect residents and onlookers. The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office will assist with the investigation.

Culver Union Township Fire Chief Terry Wakefield confirmed that the case is suspicious. The building was vacant and had no electricity or gas connected to it. “I can say that I think it is suspicious. Not having those two things (gas or electric). Fires don’t start by themselves. It takes someone else to do that. They require someone else to do that. To figure out what that is will be a little harder with the devastation to the building that we have.”

a warrant was obtained from the Marshall County Prosecutor’s Office Thursday morning to begin the investigation. “Not finding anybody who owned this property, we went to the prosecutor’s office and got a warrant to go on the property.”

Wakfield confirmed that the cause will be determined. “We will be in there digging and finding exactly where this fire started. We will pinpoint it to an area or a certain thing.” Wakefield could not confirm when the final report will be available. “We will take all the time it takes.”

Culver Union Township Fire Department (CUTFD) had prepared a response in the event the vacant structure ever did catch fire. The structure was large, old, vacant, and had

a balloon structure. “We had already pre-planned ahead of time how we were going to fight it if we had to fight it because it was a vacant property.”

The current lack of an aerial fire truck makes it difficult for the CUTFD to respond to certain fires, such as was the case Wednesday. Neighboring fire departments were called for back up immediately. “at the beginning of the call we put in for assistance from local departments Plymouth, Leiters Ford, and Monterey to assist with an aerial ladder and manpower to fight such a fire.”

The Culver department focused on protecting surrounding structures, “Our main concerns were structures in the area. We actually had a building three feet away from the building that was on fire, which we saved. We had a building on the other side 18 feet away which sustained some damage. We saved all surrounding structures.”

“It took us 20 minutes to get set up to save the surrounding structures. That was our main concern. The fire got a little bigger than we wanted it to, but we were more worried about the neighbor’s houses than we were about a vacant building. We put all of our fire fighting toward those buildings. Once we got assistance, we started fighting the fire.”

Plumes of smoke from the fire were visible from Knox, Winamac, Bass Lake and argos. Wakefield confirmed zero injuries. “It went well with the department working with the town. The police came and gave us assistance with traffic.”

The Culver Town Council approved the purchase of a Rosenbauer aerial Fire Truck for a total of $1,769,000 in april of 2019. The fire truck will replace Truck Engine 2 which is a ‘Pumper’.

The Council had approved the use of Cumulative Capital Development (CCD) funds if needed. Please contact the Culver Town Hall at 842-3140 if you want to make a financial contribution.

Litigation history of the property at 415 Lake Shore Drive

Please see the Culver Citizen Facebook page for a brief summary of reports previously printed.

A court order filed January 22, 2019 ordered that the defendants, named The 27 Group, Inc., Scotty Vanhawk aka Scotty Vanscoik and Katie Delacruz, demolish the unsafe building and remove all of the garbage and debris at the property on or before Feb. 28, 2019.

An appeal was filed which ultimately resulted in an order for Culver Attorney Jim Clevenger to appear in the Court of Appeals of Indiana on behalf of the Town of Culver for an oral argument concerning the property.

The oral argument is scheduled for Monday, October 28 at 1:30 p.m. (Indianapolis time) at the Indiana Historical Society the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center located at 450 West Ohio Street, Indianapolis.

A complete summary of the court findings are a matter of public record. CAUSE NO. 50C01-1808-CC-000381.

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