Fire damages historic building in Greencastle

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GREENCASTLE – A fire ripped through a historic Greencastle building Friday morning, prompting more than a dozen fire departments to respond.

The fire started around 7:21 a.m., and firefighters were in the area within minutes. At the height of the effort, 15 fire departments from three counties responded. Seven interconnected buildings along East Washington Street were damaged by fire, smoke and/or water.

“I was going to the gym and I saw smoke,” said Tina Fogle, who recorded video of the fire.

“You could see the flames through the window and the trees that are cut down now—they were still up. But, they cut them down, so they could get to the fire,” Fogle said.

Fire officials believe the fire started on a second floor deck in the back of the building, which was constructed in 1875. Greencastle Fire Chief Bill Newgent said the historic building is off limits indefinitely because of the amount of damage.

“You could feel the heat from it,” Fogle said.

Perry Wainman used to be a volunteer firefighter. He is a dentist whose office is located inside the building. He said employees were inside when the fire started. Everyone got out safely.

“I feel lucky. I feel blessed. No problem,” Wainman said.

The fire will be a major setback for the city, which is renovating the downtown area thanks to a state grant. Two of the facades downtown were scheduled to be renovated in a couple of weeks, but the work will have to wait because of the fire. Chief Newgent said they want to save as much of the building as they can.

“We are not wanting anything torn down. We’re wanting to go in and try to stabilize the structure as best we can,” Newgent said.

The State Fire Marshal’s office completed its initial investigation, which focused on an electrical outlet around the ceiling fan at on the back covered porch of the structure. The exact cause remains undetermined, but investigators said there was nothing suspicious about the fire.

Estimated damage is between $1 million and $1.5 million.