Chesterton Tribune



Origin/cause investigation of Allure fire set for Thursday

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The cause of the fire which destroyed Allure on the Lake early Monday morning--formerly the Waterbird--remains undetermined, as investigators with the Chesterton Fire Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office wait to meet on site with a representative of the banquet center’s insurance company.

Deputy Fire Chief Nate Williams told the Chesterton Tribune today that an all-hands “origin/cause investigation” is now set for Thursday. He added that all indications are that the fire was accidental in nature.

In the meantime, the CFD has left the scene undisturbed, on the recommendation of the State Fire Marshal’s Office. There had been talk on Monday of bringing excavators to the site, to access areas now covered by the collapsed roof, but doing so could have damaged the integrity of any evidence pointing to the cause of the fire.

“We want all parties involved to be there at the same time, on the same page,” Williams said. “The CFD has no monetary interest in it. The people who do have a monetary interest in it need to be able to look at a clean scene.”

The CFD has determined that an event of some sort was held at The Allure on Sunday evening--possibly a wedding reception, Williams said, according to social media postings--and that the fire apparently started sometime after the manager closed the facility for the night, between 11:30 p.m. and 12 a.m., and before a Chesterton Police officer on building patrol observed smoke around 2:45 a.m.

The Allure is equipped with a full kitchen--original to the Waterbird--but Williams was unable to say whether any food was actually prepared or served on site at Sunday’s event.

The CFD itself has not attached a dollar figure to the damage, other than calling The Allure a “total loss,” but Williams did tell the Tribune on Monday that the owner, Troy Clark, put it in excess of $1 million.

No one was injured in the blaze, although a hotel under separate ownership physically linked to The Allure by a 20-foot enclosed breezeway--the Waterbird Lakeside Inn--was evacuated after fire alarms in the building were pulled, Williams said. The breezeway is now used by The Allure for the storage of extra chairs and other supplies, and firefighters succeeded in halting any extension of the fire beyond a locked door leading to the breezeway. “We made a concerted effort to stop it there,” Williams said. “The locked door was a natural fire break.”

Guests at the Waterbird Lakeside Inn were evacuated to the nearby Best Western.

Meanwhile, Fire Chief John Jarka is certain of two things: a sprinkler system would have killed the fire before it properly got started--“most definitely it would have,” he told the Tribune--and smoke detectors monitored 24/7 by an alarm company would have prompted an earlier response and thus limited the extent of damage.

The Allure--like The Waterbird before it--was equipped with neither, and neither was required under the building permit issued to Clark for remodeling the facility, since “the occupancy for a banquet center didn’t change” when the property changed hands, Jarka said.

The Allure did pass a full CFD inspection earlier this year, Jarka noted.

Jarka could not speak to The Waterbird’s history or construction but noted several possible reasons why a sprinkler system was not installed when the facility was built, in the early 1990s: possibly sprinklers weren’t required by code at the time; possibly sprinklers were required but for facilities with a larger footprint or square footage; or possibly a variance was issued to the facility by the Indiana Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission.

Williams today said that it would be nearly impossible to calculate with certainty just how much water the CFD and the 11 other departments assisting at the scene used to extinguish the fire, but a quarter of a million gallons might not be too far off the mark. “We used all the water we could get from the hydrants and we were flowing water continuously for a couple of hours.”

Fully six inches of water were observed on the floor of The Allure, Williams noted, before firefighters were able to approach the building and open its doors. At which point the water inside gushed outside like a “waterfall, like some kind of water feature.”


Posted 6/4/2019




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