Crews Battle Indianapolis High-Rise Fire


Welders likely sparked a fire at an Indianapolis high-rise building that forced the evacuation of several workers and kept hundreds more outside early Tuesday morning, fire investigators said.

The Indianapolis Fire Department was called to the Disciples Center building at 132 E. Washington St., just southeast of Monument Circle, at about 6:30 a.m.

Firefighters initially battled smoke and flames on the eighth floor of the building. Crews said they had the blaze doused on that floor and then found more evidence of fire on the ninth floor.

Additional crews were called after firefighters determined that what they initially thought was a small fire was more involved.

Indianapolis fire Capt. Rita Burris said the blaze originated in a steel wall chase.

"Visible flame could be seen from several areas inside the building coming from the steel wall chase, formerly used as an incinerator chase," Burris said.

The blaze was completely out in the building by 7:45 a.m.

The building houses several sports-related organizations, including U.S. Synchronized Swimming, U.S. Gymnastics, U.S. Diving, the Disciples of Christ and Department of Child Services. About 600 people work in the building.

People who work in the building stood outside after being evacuated, and Washington and Delaware streets were closed in the area for a short time.

"It just smelled really bad, and the fire alarms went off," said Angela Webber, who was evacuated.

Workers were allowed back into the building at about 8:30 a.m.

Some work was being done on the building, and fire investigators think welders accidentally ignited a fire in some insulation.

One person may have suffered smoke inhalation, but there were no other reports of injuries.

The west side of the building was constructed in the 1920s, while the east side was built in the 1940s, housing the Indianapolis Sports Center.

Renovations were ongoing in the building, and firefighters had been called there twice on Monday when insulation caught fire.

A building damage estimate wasn't immediately available.

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