No cause found for Valpo fire

2013-03-13T18:39:00Z 2013-03-13T23:57:04Z No cause found for Valpo firePhil Wieland phil.wieland@nwi.com, (219) 548-4352 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | As expected, the cause of the fire that destroyed a historic downtown building March 4 might never be known.

Assistant Fire Chief Dan Lamb and a small army of fire investigators representing several property owners went through the rubble Tuesday for several hours but were unable to find enough evidence to point to a likely cause.

"The fire originated in the basement, but we can't find a cause because there are too many heat sources," Lamb said.

Among the possible sources were the building's boiler, a water heater, two banks of electrical meters, fuse boxes, a refrigerator and trash cans, Lamb said. G.E. Marshall, a Valparaiso contractor, was on hand with equipment to do the heavy lifting for the investigators.

Investigators for the Sievers Insurance building next to the burned out structure and another for Jimmy's Cafe to the rear of it were among those joining Lamb, the state fire marshal's office and the owners of the former Empire Hall at the corner of Lincolnway and Michigan Street.

Lamb said the case will remain open as to the cause in case it ever comes back for further investigation.

Duane Thormahlen, whose father Robert owns the building and had an accounting business there until his retirement, said the family is awaiting final word from its insurance investigator before making a final decision on whether to rebuild. At this point, he said they still are leaning toward rebuilding on the site.

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