TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – Last Friday the Light House Mission caught fire. Around 10:30 a.m. today, investigators determined the fire was arson.
Arson investigator Norm Loudermilk and a team of fire and insurance investigators canvased the aftermath of Friday’s fire. They looked through piles of debris, narrowing in on the source of the fire.
“Once you locate the origin you look for ignition sources and there were none,” said Loudermilk. “So there’s really no other way for it to have started unless someone went up and lit it.”
The night of the fire, a night manager at the Light House Mission was making his routine checks around 3 a.m. There were no signs of smoke or flames he said.
Around 3:30 a.m. another night manager woke up to the smell of smoke and discovered a fully engulfed fire. He immediately called 911.
“Once this fire got going it was just a recipe for disaster,” said Loudermilk. “With a lack of sprinkler systems and operations, and with the highly combustible materials, we’re just lucky the whole place didn’t burn.”
Loudermilk told News 10 the main damage was next to numerous paint cans and paint thinners which are both a violation of the fire code.
“Because it had this ignitable liquid right by it, it kept feeding the fire. So the reason the firefighters had a hard time putting it out was because it wasn’t just bails of clothes on fire it was actually combustible, ignitable material like paint and paint thinners that were stacked up in that corner,” said Loudermilk.
We reached out to the Light House Mission’s CEO Reverend Tim Fagg but he said he could not comment at this time.
The investigation team went through a timely process to find the fire’s cause. The local businesses didn’t have large enough equipment to remove the debris from the scene resulting in a week’s delay. But what posed a major safety concern for the team was the building itself.
“This is the worst it gets,” said Loudermilk.
They had to first get rid of the steel beams, bricks and other materials before they could even begin their investigation. The fire department had to hire a construction crew to remove the piles of debris.
Once the construction crew cleared out the burnt material, investigators were finally able to determine it was arson.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in last week’s fire but investigators say it’s important for the city to stay up to date on building inspection and fire inspection. If you’re a business owner you can contact the fire department for a routine inspection.
This will ensure businesses are aware of their fire risks and are keeping safe.
Residents of the Light House Mission are currently staying at the Conner’s Center in Terre Haute.
A full investigation is now underway to determine who is responsible for this fire. Investigators are using surveillance footage, photos and interviews of those at the scene. If you have any information about the Light House Mission you are asked to contact crime stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or online at http://www.wvcrimestoppers.org/.