SOUTH BEND, Ind. A plume of thick gray smoke could be seen for miles in the skies above South Bend on Wednesday afternoon.
It was coming from the Park Jefferson Apartments where city firefighters responded to a call around 1:00 p.m. today.
“When our first crews arrived we had heavy smoke showing. Upon arrival, as units were coming on the scene the fire did break through the roof,” said Assistant Chief John Corthier.
Park Jefferson has been the scene of numerous fires in the past. While today’s was intense, it wasn’t as serious in terms of damage.
Eight apartment units in Building 251 on Rue Bossuet were destroyed although firefighters managed to keep the flames from spreading to 24 neighboring apartments in the same building.
“There’s a lot of different complexes in this city that we go to multiple times it just seems that Park Jefferson has one where the fire does get to be a larger than normal fire. That’s why a few years ago they did put the fire stops in,” said Assistant Chief Corthier. “I think in the previous fires possibly this whole building might have gone up just depending on the situation whereas the fire stops did contain it to those eight apartments.”
A fire stop is a wall in the attic that keeps the flames from spreading from one part of a building to another through a shared roof.
Park Jefferson has been criticized for a lack of fire stops in the past, but was commended for their presence today.
Investigators say Wednesday’s fire started in the kitchen of apartment 1821 although the occupants were not home at the time and a more specific orgin has yet to be determined.
Apartment complex maintenance workers went door to door to evacuate residents, including the 90 year old mother of Patricia Warren.
“She has her robe on and her coat, and has her cell phone but that’s about it,” said Patricia Warren. “I don’t think she’s going to have much left in the apartment, I think it’s mainly the sentimental things that bother us the most, family things and that sort, not the money, those things can be replaced.”
The Park Jefferson apartment complex is no stranger to fires. A fire broke out in June 2012 when a pan left on a stove sparked the blaze.
Another massive fire swept its way through a Park Jefferson building back in January 2012. 28 of 40 units were heavily damaged or destroyed.
In the spring of 2007, 30 people were displaced by a fire that investigators believe was caused by a cigarette.