(About the first fire: There's nothing more frustrating for a firefighter than not being able to find the frakking fire.)
Noble County fire departments battled a rash of fires last week, including two house fires and two barn fires. The Albion Fire Department was involved in three of five blazes, although only one happened in its response area.
Three of the calls happened on Tuesday, October 13. The first turned out to be the least serious one, although the potential for a disaster was there. Albion fire and police personnel responded to the South Noble County Government Complex at 2:33 p.m. when workers began smelling smoke in the basement.
Witnesses say a haze could be seen in a hallway of the basement, while they could smell smoke there and in one area of the upstairs. After the large building was evacuated firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to search the entire structure, then set up fans to clear the smoke, but they were unable to find the source of the burning odor.
Responders traced the incident back to a furnace room and took some equipment there apart before allowing employees and visitors back in. It's believed the cause was something that got hot in the furnace, and maintenance personnel kept an eye on it after firefighters departed. The incident wasn't repeated; two fire trucks responded, remaining on the scene for about an hour and a half.
Just before 6 p.m. a barn fire broke out at the Matt Green property, at 7265 E 100 N. A heavy column of black smoke was already visible, and an Avilla Police unit arrived just five minutes later to report the large wooden structure was engulfed in flames. Avilla firefighters called for trucks and manpower from Albion, Kendallville, and Garrett to provide water and help protect endangered exposures, but the barn itself couldn't be saved. Fire units were on the scene until after 9 p.m. An Indiana State Fire marshal assisted in investigating the cause.
Just ten minutes after the last fire unit cleared that blaze, a house fire broke out at 355 Martin Street in Rome City. No one was home when the fire was discovered at about 9:30 p.m., and a Rome City Marshal's Office unit arrived to discover heavy smoke coming from the two story wood frame home. Flames spread through the second floor and throughout the attic area, but the location of the fire's origin remains under investigation.
A full response of the Orange and Johnson Township Fire Departments was sent to battle the blaze, which heavily damaged the structure. Later the Avilla Fire Department brought over a special machine that assists in removing smoldering insulation from the walls and attic areas, and NIPSCO also sent a crew to disconnect power to the residence. A Noble County EMS unit stood by as a precaution, but no injuries were reported. The fire was declared under control at 10:17 p.m., and the last unit left the scene just before 1 a.m.
Burglars reportedly broke into the damaged, boarded up house later in the week.
The Rome City area was hit by a second house fire in the early hours of Friday, when flames consumed a double wide mobile home at 0316 W Northport Road. Again no one was there when a blaze broke out in the Arnold Sizemore home, allowing the fire to spread through the house before a neighbor noticed it at 1:26 a.m.
Orange Township firefighters arrived to discover the structure engulfed, with flames threatening a large propane tank next to it. They called for mutual aid units from the Johnson Township and Ligonier Fire Departments, and later brought an Albion unit and crew up to standby at the fire station in Rome City. The Kendallville Fire Department stood by to provide extra coverage to the area.
The fire was declared under control about half an hour, but some of more than a dozen fire trucks that responded were on the scene until about Friday afternoon. Investigators returned to the scene later in the day, but no cause has yet been determined.
The Noble County Sheriff's Department, Noble County EMS, and LaGrange REMC assisted at the scene.
Some of the same departments fought a barn fire just over the line in LaGrange County, that same morning. Dispatchers from both counties received 911 calls just before 10 a.m., reporting smoke coming from a barn at 7065 E 700 S. Johnson Township firefighters, who had come down twice to assist Orange Township, placed the Orange Township Fire Department on standby while they fought the blaze until about 4:20 p.m.