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July 28th, 2007

Cromwell becomes a dry community:

Sorry, no pictures this time -- it was one of those low manpower days.

Fire destroyed a liquor store in Cromwell last week, along with a connected bait shop.

Investigators are searching for the cause of a blaze that broke out just before 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Rum Keg, 132 S. Jefferson Street. As soon as the initial call was dispatched a firefighter in the area reportedly heavy smoke, and within minutes the one story wood structure was engulfed in flames.

The first report of the fire came by cell phone to the Kosciusko County Sheriff's Department, but several other callers soon also dialed 911. A plume of black smoke from the fire could be seen from miles away.

Firefighters attempted to go into the building to make a search and interior attack, but were forced out by the large volume of fire, as well as explosions that were believed to be rupturing beer kegs and other beverage containers. Firefighters were forced into a defensive attack from outside; it took almost an hour to bring the blaze under control, and another hour to extinguish it.

Investigators remained on the scene until about 8:45 p.m., trying to determine the cause. Cromwell fire officials were assisted by agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which is automatically called in for incidents involving a liquor store. Representatives of the State Fire Marshal's Office were also called out.

The business wasn't open at the time of the fire, and it's believed no one was inside when it began; no injuries were reported.

In addition to Cromwell fire trucks, an aerial ladder from the Syracuse Fire Department responded. Also called to the scene were trucks and manpower from the Albion, Ligonier, Noble Township, and North Webster fire departments, the Noble County EMS, and NIPSCO.

The Cromwell Police Department, Noble County Sheriff's Department, and Indiana State Police provided assistance including traffic control. Heavy smoke and the firefighting operation forced surrounding roads, including SR 5, to be shut down. The highway was closed for two and a half hours.

Topeka, Thorn Creek, and Orange Township firefighters were on standby to cover the area during the incident.

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