South Bend crews battle early morning vacant house fire

SOUTH BEND, In - Flames and smoke could be seen for blocks as a fire ripped through a vacant two-story home on the 1000 block of North Johnson Street in South Bend early Thursday morning, just a few days before people were supposed to move into the home.

Heavy smoke clouded the street down to Lincoln, making it hard for the engines to navigate down to the fire.

The Fire Chief, Al Kirsits, said the South Bend Fire Department knew the house was vacant, but a neighbor told him someone could be inside.

“We mounted an attack through the first floor of the structure, searched the basement. And at that time we decided to evacuate the crews out of the structure,” said Kirsits.

Firefighters pulled out because the roof was crumbling and caving in.

Crews fought the flames from above, drenching the fire with massive amounts of water.

Kirsits said the fire may not have been intentionally set.

“The way the fire appeared to us, it appeared to be in the roof, in the attic area, not really any rooms on fire,” said Kirsits. “It stands a chance to be an accidental fire.”

Kirsits said the second floor and attic suffered extensive damage, but the first floor was in pretty good shape.

It took crews quite awhile to finally put out the last of the fire, as they worked from inside the second floor and attic.

“It’s kind of a stubborn fire, the roof has kind of collapsed down, with all of the cedar shades and shingles on the roof,” said Kirsits. “And the fire kind of smothers in-between there, so we’re still fighting some hot spots.”

This was the second fire to break in the overnight and early morning hours, and the third structure fire in South Bend in November.

“We’ve been going to one or two fires a day it seems like, so we’ve been catching a pretty good workload lately,” said Kirsits.


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