No arrests made in ongoing arson investigation



Investigators continue to interview persons of interest in the investigation into a massive fire intentionally set the morning of Nov. 21 in downtown North Vernon.

That fire led to the collapse of two buildings.

North Vernon Fire Chief Rick McGill said Tuesday that North Vernon Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office have been speaking with “multiple persons” in the case to determine the cause.

As of Tuesday morning, no arrests had been made, and McGill declined to comment further on the investigation.

“We’re still following up on information and leads as they come,” he said.

The fire broke out in the early morning hours of Nov. 21 and destroyed an entire city block in historic downtown North Vernon. It left two buildings destroyed and several families homeless.

Five surrounding buildings suffered some level of damage, too, McGill added.

Multiple fire departments responded to extinguish the flames, and six firefighters suffered minor injuries.

The main building affected by the fire was Hatton’s Carpet and Flooring Store, located at 24 Fifth St. Owned by Larry Hatton, it had three levels, housing the carpet business and apartments.

It was the second fire reported there in a month’s time. McGill said the first fire was determined to be accidental.

McGill said the most recent blaze originated in a basement apartment, which still has quite a bit of structural integrity and will work in favor of the investigation.

“That way you’re not just digging through this big pile of rubble; you can pretty well have an intact scene,” he said.

The area plan commission director told McGill that none of the buildings have been demolished yet, because insurance providers and engineers continue to assess the damage.

“It’s kind of in the insurance providers hands now,” McGill said. “They are still coming in and assessing the losses for their clients.”

McGill said he expects some of the damaged buildings will eventually be razed, because it will cost more to repair them than save them.

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