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Crews battle large fire at senior living facility in Lawrence

LAWRENCE, Ind. – Crews battled a large fire at a senior living facility in Lawrence Monday.

According to the Lawrence Police Department, this was a two-alarm fire at Benjamin Court Senior Living Facility in the 9400 block of Bowling Green Way. Units from the Indianapolis Fire Department assisted.

Earlier, officials had indicated that two people were taken to the hospital with injuries, but the fire chief later said that information was inaccurate.

The fire started around 12:30 p.m. A Lawrence police officer spotted smoke coming from the building and was the first to call it in. Shortly after that, several people called 911 to report it.

Smoke was visible for several miles. Fire officials said crews faced challenges in evacuating the building because many of the residents are in wheelchairs or limited in mobility.

“That was the biggest issue, trying to get everybody evacuated,” said Lawrence Fire Chief, Dino Batalis. “There were mobility problems. I know a couple people got taken through windows. And with the wind kicking up, that’s also a hindrance.”

Theresa Jackson, who lives in the complex, says she didn’t know what was happening when a police officer started banging on the door to her second-floor apartment.

“He came in, he said we’ve got to evacuate the entire building,” Jackson said. “I said what’s going on? And he told me there’s a fire.”

“And he led me down the hall from my apartment on the second floor to the elevator and when we got down to the first floor, it was filled with people,” she said.

At one point, about 80 evacuated residents were being sheltered inside the nearby Benjamin Harrison YMCA.

“It’s a little bit chilly out, so we’ve got them inside the Y as a staging area,” Batalis said. “The Red Cross and victims assistance will come in there and help us triage and try and get a place for these folks to go.”

As many as 100 firefighters responded to the scene. By about 2:15 p.m., the fire was dying down, but crews were still spraying water into the building. Officials said 30 apartments are inhabitable after the fire. The viability of living in 32 to 34 units remains in question.

Only one building in the complex was affected. The cause remains under investigation and Lawrence fire investigators are receiving help from the ATF due to the amount of resources the agency can provide.

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