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3-alarm downtown fire destroys vacant building

Water damages nearby historic Bushnell


A three-alarm fire destroyed a downtown Springfield building early Sunday morning while water from firefighting flooded the banquet facilities of the historic Asa S. Bushnell Building.

The 1920 Carter Jewelers Co. building at 12 N. Fountain Ave., valued at $70,180 according to the Clark County Auditor’s Office, was a total loss, Springfield Fire Rescue Division Capt. Dan Faust said.

Meanwhile, water used to put out the fire flooded the basement of the newer portion of the Bushnell Building, but caused minimal damage, owner Jim Lagos told the Springfield News-Sun on Sunday.

The majority of fire damage was contained to the vacant Carter building, owned by the Wellington Square development company. But smoke and heat damaged the exterior brick of the Bushnell Building to its north and another vacant building to its south also owned by Wellington Square, Faust said.

Wellington Square is a wholly owned subsidiary of the non-profit Turner Foundation.

“It’s an unfortunate situation for the community, but we’ll take a look at it and make it an opportunity that will take downtown to the next level,” Turner Foundation Executive Director John Landess said.

The Carter building, which had a 1960s facade, had been used recently as a meeting point for downtown holiday decorators and was formerly a bar, Landess said.

“It wasn’t keeping with the block which has turn-of-the-century store fronts,” Landess said. However, the developer had plans to do some work on it, he said.

The remaining building owned by Wellington Square also sustained a flooded basement and damage to its rubber roof and would be checked out by a structural engineer for safety. It’s had recent interest from potential tenants, Landess said.

Lagos said a contractor from water mitigation Code Blue — which is housed in the the 1893 portion of the Bushnell Building — was on scene early Sunday afternoon. He expected the water to be mitigated and damages repaired within several days.

The fire remains under investigation. It was not known if investigators would be able to determine a cause because of the extent of damage, Faust said of the two-story front and single-story rear building.

“As far as pinning it down to one thing, it’s going to be hard to do unless there was something going on in the building, a maintenance-type thing or something like that, that somebody can pinpoint ‘Hey I was working over in this area,’” Faust said. The division’s fire marshal’s bureau is investigating.

Nothing initially appeared suspicious, he said.

Landess speculated that someone may have pulled back a portion of the sheet metal exterior to the rear, entered the building to keep warm and lit a fire that got out of control. He also said the front door was unlocked, out of the norm for the development company.

The rear addition was being removed to make way for an additional point of egress from the Bushnell Building, Landess said. It was cheaply constructed and would have been easy to get into, he said.

It wasn’t clear whether electrical service was connected to the building. Fire officials said electric crews disconnected the building’s service after the fire started, but Landess said he didn’t think they’d had electric service.

Crews initially attacked the fire from the interior but quickly realized that it was too far ahead of them when fire began coming through the roof. “At that point … we pulled the guys out to go defensive,” Faust said.

After the bulk of the fire was out, crews tried to limit the amount of water used to avoid further flooding in the basements, Faust said.

The fire closed North Fountain Avenue between Columbia and Main Streets while emergency and clean-up crews worked.


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