Cause of fire remains unclear


The cause of a fire that swept through a row of buildings in downtown North Vernon, causing two to collapse, remains under investigation.

That’s according to the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office, which has been investigating Friday’s fire alongside the North Vernon Fire Department.

A spokesman with the fire marshal’s office said he did not know when the cause of the fire might be released.

North Vernon Fire Chief Rick McGill could not be reached for comment Monday about the investigation or the estimated damage the fire caused.

The fire, reported at 4:48 a.m. Friday, engulfed Hatton’s Carpet and Flooring Store at 24 Fifth St. That building, which housed the business and apartments, collapsed along with an adjacent building. Other buildings along the block were left hollowed out and destroyed.

Firefighters, police and other emergency officials spent 17 hours putting out the fire, cleaning up and assisting people, according to the North Vernon Fire Department.

No resident of the buildings reported an injury. Five firefighters suffered minor injuries, according to Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, which took the injured firefighters to an area hospital for treatment.

The fire is the second reported at 24 Fifth St. this month. McGill said a fire on Nov. 5 was determined to be accidental.

Richard A. Smith, 52, of Dupont, was found dead in the area in October. Two men have been arrested in that case.

This month’s fires have left residents of the apartments in some of the buildings homeless. After Friday’s fire, 20 people took temporary shelter at First Church of the Nazarene in North Vernon.

The church, working with the American Red Cross, offered meals and a temporary place to sleep.

On Monday, the church ended its temporary housing since there were only two people who had not been relocated.

Sandy Sailer with the American Red Cross said she had confidence those two family members, who were looking for a place to move into Monday morning, would be OK.

“We’ll make sure they have a place to go,” Sailer said. “That’s our goal is to help them do that.”

Sailer said the American Red Cross assists residents on a case-by-case basis after disasters. By teaming up with the Salvation Army and the Jennings County United Way, those organizations see that families have an opportunity to receive shelter.

Cheri Massey, executive director of Jennings County United Way, said money often is given to help pay for the deposit of a new place, the first month’s rent and the deposit for utilities.

Massey said monetary

donations will continue to be accepted.

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Checks can be sent to the Jennings County United Way, made out to “Downtown fire.”

Clothing donations are being taken at Goodwill at 2260 State Road 7, North Vernon; household items can be taken to St. Vincent de Paul at 10 E. O&M Ave., North Vernon; and food items can be dropped off at Good Samaritan Food Pantry at 2250 State Road 7, North Vernon.


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