Fire Tears Through Indiana Shopping Center

CARMEL, Ind. --

A massive fire raged out of control for more than an hour at a strip mall in Carmel early Thursday morning, heavily damaging at least two businesses.

The fire was reported at about 4:35 a.m. at the Carmel Walk Shopping Center, in the 1300 block of South Rangeline Road, near 116th Street and Carmel Drive, but firefighters had originally been called to the same building two hours earlier when two workers smelled smoke.

When firefighters arrived a second time, flames were shooting out of a Dunkin' Donuts in the shopping center, and the blaze had spread to Grape Inspirations, a winery.

Crews from fire departments in Fishers, Carmel, Noblesville, Westfield and Indianapolis were called to battle the blaze. There were no reports of injuries.

"The whole side of the building there was blowing out, and it just kept getting bigger and bigger," said witness Tom Hathaway.

Crews were able to bring the blaze under control by 7 a.m.

Range Line Road and Carmel Drive were shut down in the area, but Carmel Drive reopened by 10 a.m.

Bruce Knott, fire marshal for the Carmel Fire Department, said two Dunkin' Donuts workers began smelling smoke at about 2:30 a.m. after they turned on a heater. The workers called the fire department, but firefighters didn't find any problem when they arrived.

"They got on the roof. They checked everything in the building," Knott said. "They took some of the air handlers loose, the panels off to see if everything was OK in there."

At about 4:30 a.m., one of the workers went outside the building and saw that it was burning. The fire had apparently already spread through multiple roofs in the building by the time firefighters arrived a second time.

The blaze appeared to have been hampered by a firewall at a Donato's pizza shop, also in the strip mall. A hot dog shop, cleaners and sushi shop appeared to have saved.

Ron Shoff, owner of Grape Inspirations, said the business was his life.

"It's our life savings, and seven years of hard work trying to build it into a viable business," Shoff said. "Even though it's insured, it's all gone."

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