Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

415 Lake Shore Dr. Fire  

The Indiana Fire Marshal is investigating a fire that destroyed an abandoned building in Culver.

On Wednesday, crews encountered huge flames and heavy smoke.

Firefighters tried to douse the flames and save nearby buildings.

The fire chief is calling this suspicious because the building had been abandoned for years; it had no electric or gas hooked up.

Those factors prompted the Culver fire chief to call in the state's chief fire investigator.

"We could literally feel the heat coming off the building, said Wade McGee, eyewitness.

"There was ash and debris floating in the air," said Anna Campbell-Nowalk, eyewitness.

On Thursday, the scene was much calmer. Parts of the building still smoldering and debris lining the street.

The questions now turning to how this fire started -- and officials say it already looks suspicious

"Fires don't start by themselves," said Tery Wakefield, Culver fire chief. "It takes someone else to do that. They just don't start."

Wakefield says the building had been abandoned for the past six to seven years. No utilities were hooked up, and Wakefield says someone was in the building about 45 minutes before the blaze erupted.

The State Fire Marshal's office was on scene Thursday, taking pictures, collecting evidence and working to find the cause.

The building has a long and controversial history in the small town.

For the last year, it's been at the center of a legal battle after the city condemned the property, calling it a "public nuisance." The next hearing in the case was set for later this month.

The fire is currently the talk of the town with residents and officials wanting answers.

"This is big news in a small town of 1,200 people," said McGee. "You don't very often see a building in town go up in fire like that."

"To see it just all of sudden up in smoke, yeah, it's alarming, said Campbell-Nowalk.

The State Fire Marshal was not able to provide a timeline on when his investigation would wrap up.

Culver's fire chief says cleanup will begin once investigators are finished collecting evidence.

Pictures by: Breeanna Cooper, Jean Triplet & Bob Schilling.

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