Knox city leaders enforce ‘unsafe building law’ to reopen businesses affected by fire

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 6:03 PM EDT
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KNOX, Ind. (WNDU) - The building that was once Vorpal Gaming was overtaken by a fire late in June, but now two months later, owners still have not provided proof of insurance or handled clean up.

This has caused the next door businesses, Birdie’s Main Street Diner and Downtown Depot, to need to remain closed for the last two months, and owners, as well as the city have demanded demolition.

“In a city this size, you can’t not notice it. The question is, when is it going to get cleaned up,” said Kenny Pfost, Knox’s Fire Chief.

At a public hearing held at city hall Wednesday morning, the city of Knox enforced the ‘unsafe building law.’

“And that way, it will give us the right to go in there and get it cleaned up to help the businesses get back open a lot quicker,” said Dennis Estok, Mayor of Knox.

However, that would mean that the cause of the fire would not be solved, due to the fact that without an insurance company to assess damage with, the fire investigation would be stopped completely.

“That’ll eat at me forever, you know, not knowing how that fire started. Plus the people in this community want to know. They want answers, and unfortunately, we may never be able to give them those answers they’re looking for,” Pfost said.

Residents of Knox made it clear at the meeting today, that they weren’t only looking for answers as to what caused the fire. They also wanted to know when the businesses that were affected by the fire would be able to reopen.

“It’s really difficult because I had put a lot of time and a lot of work, all of my people have, to building that business here in town,” said Phyllis Foust, the Owner of Birdie’s Main Street Diner.

According to Foust, her business had not been able to reopen due to the inability to assess the damage to the wall that connected her business with Vorpal Gaming.

“All of my people are trying to find other jobs at this point because I’m not sure how long it’s gonna be now,” Foust said.

However, now that the city would go in and clean up the damage, Foust told 16 News Now she hoped to be back open for business in the next six weeks.

“You know, we’re trying, and uhm, we’re going to get them back open,” Mayor Estok said.

The Mayor also told 16 News Now that he did not want costs to fall back on tax payers.

He added that because neither the land owner nor the building owner have provided proof of insurance in order to have the investigation continued, the city would need to charge the owners for the cost of damages and clean up, or take over the building and have a lawsuit filed against them.