Fire breaks out at south side building housing several 500 Festival parade floats

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INDIANAPOLIS (May 12, 2015) – A fire damaged a 500 Festival float after breaking out in a warehouse on the south side of Indianapolis Tuesday morning.

The float was was destroyed in the fire was sponsored by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

The fire was reported around 9:30 a.m. at Expo Design on South Harding Street, near State Road 37.  Nine of the twelve 500 Festival Parade floats were being stored and worked on at the facility.  Eight Expo Design employees were inside the building when the fire started.

“The employees were working on the floats, as we know the parade is coming up,” said Indianapolis Fire Department Captain, Rita Reith.  “So they were working on the floats, pretty routine, business as usual.”

One employee noticed the fire in the southwest corner of the building and tried to extinguish the flames.  But when the fire continued to grow, the employee closed a fire door to contain the flames inside the bay where it started.

“That employee who got that done certainly saved a lot of damage for Expo Design, but also for the floats of the 500 Festival,” said Bob Bryant, President and CEO of the 500 Festival.

Back in 1997, a fire broke out in the building and damaged 10 of the 14 floats being stored there. When the warehouse was rebuilt, the fire doors were installed to separate the bays as a precaution. Capt. Rita Reith with the Indianapolis Fire Department said the new fire suppression system likely prevented this from being a repeat of the 1997 incident.

A 22-year-old employee suffered a slight injury and went to an area hospital for evaluation.  Damage to the Elite Design warehouse was estimated at $500,000.

The remaining 11 floats were not damaged in the fire.

Bryant said he is hopeful the destroyed float can be rebuilt in time for the parade, which will go on as planned on May 23.

“We’ve been through different circumstances in our past history and always managed to make sure the parade still does down the streets of Indianapolis,” Bryant said.

Fire investigators have ruled the fire accidental, but they have not pinpointed the exact cause.  That investigation is still underway.

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