Cleanup begins following inferno


Saturday morning’s scene in downtown North Vernon was much different than Friday’s.

The multiple fire trucks and firefighters that had packed city streets were gone, and what was left was a row of ruined buildings — two that had collapsed and several that were heavily damaged.

The massive fire, which was reported at 4:48 a.m. Friday, left a city block of buildings destroyed and three families homeless.

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The cause of the fire was not available Sunday afternoon.

No injuries were reported, though five firefighters received minor injuries from the fall of the buildings.

One of those buildings was Hatton’s Carpet and Flooring Store at 24 Fifth St., which contained the business and apartments. A fire had been reported there earlier this month.

There was also a murder last month of a Dupont man in apartments at 24 N. Fifth St. Two men have since been arrested.

On Saturday, a Harmon Construction worker set an eight-foot wooden fence around the scene. They had started to put up the fence Friday afternoon when the fire began dying down.

The leftovers of the buildings continued to lightly smolder Saturday, leaving a charred odor throughout the downtown.

Doors and bricks were pushed to the sides of the city streets in piles, while ice chunks covered the sidewalks from the thousands of gallons of water used to extinguish the fire.

Unlike Friday, U.S. 50 in downtown North Vernon was allowing traffic to flow again.

The buildings next to the two collapsed ones had shattered windows and roof damage.

Jim Spaulding, who lives at 40 N. Fifth St. near where the fire spread, was evacuated from his apartment Friday morning.

By Saturday, he and his dog, Chogi, were still not allowed back inside as a precaution. His apartment also did not have gas or electric because those services were shut off as a result of the fire.

Spaulding said he plans to stay at his brother’s house until he is allowed to return home.

Dejon Smodderly, owner of Greathouse Hardware, said he could see the fire from his window at 462 E. O and M Ave. and couldn’t believe what had happened.

“It’s just incredible,” he said.

His business wasn’t affected by the flames, so he and other business owners allowed people to come in out of their building during the fire to keep warm.

Firefighters and evacuated residents and business owners stopped in.

“At one time, we had 15 to 20 people in here,” he said.

Smodderly said he was impressed with how the firefighters and emergency personnel handled the situation.

“It’s amazing the amount of equipment they had out here,” he said. “They did a very good job.”

The fire has forced the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles to close its license branch located across the street from the fire until further notice.

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