Downtown fire rages in Bluffton on Wednesday afternoon

Authored by Jim Langham on Jun 28, 2013

A major fire that broke out in a downtown Bluffton building is still under scrutiny this morning.
Bluffton police chief Tammy Schaffer said that because of the nature and destruction of the fire, it is going to be extremely difficult to determine the origin. She would not speculate on the cause and said that her department is waiting for results from an investigation by the state fire marshal to see what its role in the blaze might be.
“We will wait for completion of that report which is just getting underway,” said Schaffer. “There is no way we can determine anything at this point and may never be able to because of the nature of the destruction.”
Bluffton Fire Department captain Chris Broderick said members of the fire department were ready to eat lunch Wednesday noon when the call reporting the blaze came in.
He said that when members of the department arrived on the scene at Main and Perry Street, they found the building, which houses several apartments, completely engulfed in flames.
“There were rumors that someone was unaccounted for so we did a search and rescue immediately,” said Broderick.
Broderick said that no one was discovered in the search.
The chief said that because of the full nature of the blaze, firemen were forced to use an exterior and aerial attack. It was totally unsafe to attempt an interior attack, Broderick said.
Broderick said that before any possible investigation can begin, the safety of the building will need to be determined.
“We want to make sure that the structure is even safe enough to send anyone in to do an investigation,” said Broderick. “If it proves to be so, then we can investigate.”
Firefighters from eight departments were on the scene including Bluffton, Ossian, Liberty Township, Southwest Allen, Berne, Monroe, Poe and Ossian.
During that time, Nottingham Fire Department covered Bluffton with help from Ossian.
“Because of the heat and humidity, a lot of men were involved in fighting the fire,” said Broderick. “We had to keep rotating men.
“I can’t say enough to all of those who served at this fire and the wonderful backup that we had,” continued the captain. “That’s what it’s all about, working together like that. You have to cover every possibility, including that of a fire breaking out somewhere while you’re fighting this one.”
Broderick said that the blaze was considered, “secured,” at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.
A major building fire had occurred in downtown Bluffton in October of 2011 during the trial of Tyler White who was convicted for the murder of Amy Meyer-White. At that time, a session of that trial was canceled due to the closeness of that building to the Wells County Courthouse.

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