Authorities confirm layoffs the day of Forest River Plant 59 fire
ELKHART, Ind.-- "We've got a long way to go before we get there," said Elkhart Fire Department Division Chief, Aaron Gerber.
Almost two weeks after the massive fire at Forest River plant 59 in Elkhart, interviews have been conducted and a safety assessment done, however, actually entering the burned out building to investigate how or why the fire happened is still in it’s preliminary stages.
“Everything's buried under the roof. We can’t sift through the debris until the roof is off and we can safely start looking," said Gerber.
The fire department does the majority of the work but in this case, Elkhart Police Department detectives were called in early to investigate because of the size of the blaze. Right now, the investigation is labeled as an arson, but they say that’s not uncommon.
“In an instance were i'm contacted by the fire department, I note it as an arson. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be an arson. It’s just for my documentation on how i'm going to move forward with the investigation," said EPD Detective, Scott Johnson.
Detectives confirm there were some forest river workers who lost their jobs the same day as the blaze broke out.
“We do know there were layoffs that day. I’d say about 15 to 20. Just because somebody’s laid off doesn’t mean they’re necessarily the ones that started the fire. It could be anybody so anything is open," said Johnson.
ABC 57 reached out to Forest River to see why those employees were laid off. They didn’t want to comment on camera, only saying the company is going through changes. They say 15-20 people isn’t a significant loss and employment in the business is going steady. They wouldn’t comment any further.
“Well were going to find out what happened. One way or another we’re going to find out what happened. That’s why we communicate with each other so soon so we can get the gist of what’s going on from the start so we’re not behind the eight ball with that. But you can’t hide the evidence," said Johnson.
Investigators say they still won't be able to safely investigate and put the details together until crews come in to remove the collapsed roof and rubble. They say finding a way to safely have their team finally go inside and sift through the damage could take days to even weeks.