Delliberately Set Fire Destroys Indiana Office Building Under Construction

On April 23, 2007, a three-alarm fire that was deliberately set destroyed an office building that was under construction in Jeffersonville, IN. The two-story building was constructed of wood frame with brick veneer and an asphalt shingle roof. Constructed in 2006, the interior was framed, but contained no drywall. Each floor contained 6,210 square feet. The attic space was open and unfinished. There were no fire protection or detection systems in the building. The only utility connected to the building was temporary electric service.

The Jeffersonville Fire Department was dispatched at 6:16 P.M. to a reported "building fire" at 2770 Jefferson Center Way on the east side of the city. Engines 1 and 2, both 1,500-gpm pumpers and Quint 1, a 105-foot aerial with a 1,500-gpm pump, responded with 10 firefighters under the command of Assistant Chief Major Lindsey. As the fire department was being dispatched, McCulloch Volunteer Fire Department Engine 115, a 1,500-gpm pumper, drove upon the incident and reported a "working building fire." This engine positioned in front of the building and firefighters deployed a 1¾-inch attack line and began an exterior attack. The Dispatch Center advised Lindsey that it was receiving multiple calls reporting the fire.

Observing smoke from a distance, Lindsey requested Jeffersonville Quint 3, a 75-foot aerial with a 1,500-gpm pump, to be dispatched. Engine 2 arrived on scene at 6:21 and reported a "fully involved building fire." Engine 2 laid dual 300-foot three inch supply lines from a hydrant north of the building to a position in the parking lot in front of the building. The three-member crew placed the engine's pre-piped deck gun and a 200-foot 2½-inch attack line into operation.

Quint 1 was positioned at the southwest corner of the building and set up for aerial operations. Engine 1 reverse laid two 200-foot three-inch supply lines from Quint 1 to a hydrant southwest of the building. Engine 1 hooked onto the hydrant with its five-inch front suction and pumped to Quint 1. Upon arrival of Fire Chief Clark Miles at 6:22, mutual aid was requested from the Clarksville and New Albany fire departments. Clarksville Engine 70, a 1,500-gpm pumper, and Engine 72, a 1,500-gpm pumper, responded with six firefighters. New Albany Engine 1, a 1,500-gpm pumper, responded with an assistant chief and a three-person crew.

Jeffersonville Quint 3 was positioned on Jefferson Center Way and set up for aerial master stream operations. Clarksville Engine 72 reverse laid two 600-foot three-inch supply lines from Quint 3 to a hydrant north of the building. Engine 72 hooked onto the hydrant with a five-inch supply line and pumped to Quint 3. A 150-foot three-inch supply line was hand laid to McCulloch Engine 115 from Quint 3.

Clarksville Engine 70 was directed to Wellstone Regional Hospital, at the rear of the fire building, to check for extension. Engine 70 laid 500 feet of three-inch supply line from a hydrant behind the hospital to extinguish a brushfire that was ignited by embers from the structure fire. Three firefighters operated a 1¾-inch pre-connect to extinguish the fire. A 1½-inch handline was stretched from Quint 1 to help control the building fire. New Albany Engine 1 was assigned to stand by at Jeffersonville Station 1 to cover the city along with recalled off-duty Jeffersonville firefighters who manned reserve apparatus. Miles declared the fire under control at 6:59 P.M. Mutual aid departments were released at 7:55. Jeffersonville units left the scene at midnight. An investigation by Jeffersonville fire and police investigators and the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office determined that the fire was intentionally set.

Unfinished construction permitted the fire to spread rapidly throughout the interior, leading to full involvement of the structure. Defensive operations with aerial and ground master streams quickly brought the fire under control. An initial pre-plan of the building supplied information to the fire department on the type of building construction. The fire department was waiting for the building to be completed to do a complete pre-plan.