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