Michiana continues to mourn fallen New Carlisle firefighter

Two days after a deadly fire claimed the life of a New Carlisle firefighter, a small town continues to pull together.

Friends and firefighters from across the region have dropped off bouquets of flowers, helmets, teddy bears and candles at the New Carlisle fire station.

Alongside a red, New Carlisle Fire pickup truck is a poster board with a photograph of Jamie Middlebrook in his dress uniform, surrounded by loving notes.

Middlebrook served as a volunteer firefighter since 1992 and was a full time EMT in town.

Officials said 20 firefighters initially responded a large “barn” fire at K-Fex Inc., a septic pumping company located at 5885 N. 800 E. According to New Carlisle Chief of Police, Jeff Roseboom, it’s procedure for any on duty ambulances to respond to fires in addition to engines. The ambulances on scene were put on standby.

Roseboom told NewsCenter 16 that Middlebrook was on duty as a firefighter, not an EMT, the night of the fire.

Crews radioed about a “small explosion” in the building, but at least two fiery bursts could be seen Tuesday evening.

“Command has issued a mayday,” said one woman over the radio, asking crews to stop traffic.

Inside the burning structure was Assistant Chief Middlebrook, his partner Matt O’Donnell, and a third firefighter who managed to make it out of the building without any assistance. O’Donnell was rescued, transported to a local hospital and released, while Middlebrook’s body was found buried beneath debris.



COMMUNITY CONTINUES TO MOURN:

Thursday afternoon friends of the fire department popped in and out all day. Unlike large cities, one man told NewsCenter 16 that New Carlisle is like the idyllic “Mayberry” where everyone knows one another and everyone went to the same school, restaurants, social events.

“I don’t think we’ll ever completely get over this,” said Shayne Snyder, a lifelong resident of New Carlisle.

Snyder described the community as one where “everybody knows everybody’s family.” Snyder and his family brought a plastic fireman helmet to the memorial, another small piece of a growing exhibit.

Ashley Caruso-Churchill placed a bouquet of flowers at the memorial after seeing the fire first hand two days earlier. Churchill recently returned to New Carlisle from California where she saw wildfires, but a large fire in this area was still a strange sight to see.

“He did what he could to help this community,” said Churchill.



SAFETY INVESTIGATION:

The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration (IOSHA) started its safety investigation Thursday.
Bob Dittmer, spokesman for the Indiana Dept. of Labor said they have six months to complete their investigation, but said they would likely be complete in two to three months.

IOSHA’s investigation begins with the New Carlisle Fire Dept. because it was a firefighter that died. The department investigates any incidents where there is “catastrophic” injury such as an individual staying in the hospital for 3-plus days or dying on the job.

The investigation cannot start in the field until the area has been cleared, and deemed safe.

Dittmer said they will look to see if there were any issues with the training done at the fire department but the investigation does not stop there. If IOSHA believes that the building state was to blame they would expand their investigation into the record of maintenance and safety at the facility.

According to IOSHA, there are no records of citations for any company doing business as “K-Fex.”



FIRE INVESTIGATION:

The Indiana State Fire Marshal has been called in to assist with the investigation of the fire.

Senior Public Information Officer for the State Fire Marshal's Office, John Erickson, told NewsCenter 16 they are in the “early stages” of the investigation.

There is one lead investigator on scene, whose job it is to assist the local department determine the cause, pattern of burns and origin of the flames.

As of Thursday afternoon no cause was listed.


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