Fire investigators combed through a tangle of twisted metal, charred wood and loose bricks Tuesday trying to figure out what sparked Monday's massive blaze at an industrial complex east of downtown Fort Wayne.
Crews poured water on the smoldering ruins and moved debris with heavy equipment while investigators worked their way toward the origin of the flames.
"We're kind of sifting through the rubble along with the excavators," Assistant Fire Chief Jim Murua said.
Murua said investigators might determine the origin and cause of the fire as early as today. With the fire still under investigation, he declined to say whether arson is suspected.
The blaze was reported shortly before 2:30 p.m. Monday in a group of industrial buildings just south of the Tecumseh Street Bridge. The fire virtually leveled all the structures involved, and firefighters were unable to bring the flames under control until nearly 8:30 p.m. Monday.
It was earlier reported that at least six buildings were affected by the flames, but fire officials said that technically the blaze burned only two large buildings, which branched out into the sprawling complex. Much of the space was used for storage, but 12 to 14 businesses, including lawn care and auto repair businesses, also rented portions of the complex.
Murua, who oversees fire inspections in the city, was too busy with the investigation Tuesday to check the buildings' inspection records, but from memory, he said it had been awhile since the buildings had been inspected. Fire officials had recently gone there to conduct an inspection, but they could not do so because no one was there to let them inside, he said.
According to Allen County property records, one of the buildings that burned was owned by Suzanne and David Anglin, with a corner of it owned by Dyle Hughes. The other building was owned by a business named Wayne Pump LLC. That business, according to state records, is registered to Brian Schaper, who owns Metro Real Estate at 2042 Broadway. The same address is listed for Wayne Pump LLC in county records.
While an official damage estimate has not been released, property records show that the two buildings and the land had a combined value of $133,000.
As early as Monday night, demolition crews started hauling away the wreckage left by the fire. Murua said the owners would have to cover the cleanup costs.