Warehouse that burned down Friday, has a history

NOW: Warehouse that burned down Friday, has a history


SOUTH BEND, Ind. – A fire that destroyed a warehouse near downtown South Bend also destroyed a local man’s business, but it wasn’t just inventory that he lost.

Fun FX’s costume and party inventory was all destroyed, however, the owner said the loss isn’t all business-related.

We’re told the business is looking at thousands of dollars in damages from the fire, but Victor Cao, who’s run this business for nearly 30 years, says some of the items lost were priceless and personal.

“The more you think about it the more your realize hey this was there,” Cao said. “All my kid’s toys that were stored or that they didn’t play with anymore. That kind of stuff was there. I had all kinds of personal belongings there too.”

Cao said that he did not insure everything because he never thought a fire would ever happen.

That warehouse, we confirmed, is over 100 years old and with that old age, comes old building materials.

South bend Fire Marshall Chico Rodriguez said that beyond the bricks is a whole lot of old wood and that helped the fire spread.

On Friday, the fire quickly burned through the entire Fun FX building, destroying everything inside.

The smoke disappeared and what was left was rubble from a building that is over 100 years old.

“Newer buildings a lot of times, fires are contained to the area of origin, where older buildings, there is the result,” South Bend Fire Marshall Chico Rodriguez said.

This building has a history of housing clothes. According to the South Bend History Museum, the Wilson Brothers shirt factory moved into this building in 1887, where they produced men’s clothing.

Fire investigators said the old construction was the Achilles heel for this fire.

“Most of the inside is all wood, the roof and everything was wooden beams as you can see, and once they got ahold of some of that old wood, if you recall, some of the old buildings with old wood, a lot of that wood was treated with oil in order to keep it waterproof,” Rodriguez said.

He said old buildings like this one, might not have been up to code.

“A lot of these buildings, older structures they fall under no code,” Rodriguez said.

With newer structures, he says sprinklers usually contain the fire.

“It wasn’t sprinkled to my knowledge,” he said.

However Fun FX owner, Victor Cao, said there was fire protection in place.

“Yeah, there were sprinklers and fire extinguishers all over the place. So if it went off it probably wasn’t enough,” Cao said.

He says he did everything he could to keep it to code.

“We have it inspected all the time. I would exceed the fire code. Because I was always paranoid. If they told me I had to have 6 fire extinguishers, I’d have 12,” Cao said. “This is my livelihood. It’s something I’ve worked at for 30 years. I wanted to protect it.”

The investigation officially started Monday since hot spots continued to flare up over the weekend.

Rodriguez said it is too dangerous for them to go inside so they have to base their investigation on interviews with witnesses.

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