Winds a factor in weekend fire

Monday, March 19, 2007

Strong winds were a factor in a weekend fire that caused severe damage to a Cloverdale area business.

Firefighters say Lewis Bait and Tackle owner Valerie Lewis was burning trash near her business, located on Ind. 42 south of Cloverdale, Sunday afternoon when burning debris fell out of the trash barrel and caught the grass on fire.

Windy conditions at the time caused the fire to quickly spread across the ground and ignite the corner of the business.

Part of the building was engulfed when Cloverdale Township firefighters arrived at the scene at around 4:30 p.m., Fire Chief Kerry Shepherd said.

They required additional assistance from Greencastle Fire, Jefferson Township, Cataract Fire, Poland Fire and Reelsville Fire.

Adding danger to an already threatening situation, several boxes of ammunition and propane tanks were being stored in the building and exploded during the blaze. Randy Holmes was operating the tackle shop and was actually in the process of moving items out of the building before the fire, Shepherd said.

There were no injuries as a result of the explosions or the fire, but it made for some tense moments.

"We all jumped a couple of times," Shepherd said. "It was a little hairy a few times."

Firefighters worked for some time to extinguish the blaze and did not clear the scene until almost 7:30 p.m.

They had to shut down SR 42 for safety during the fire and were assisted by Conservation Officer Steve Westell, Putnam County Deputy Doug Nally and Cloverdale Police Officer Nate Clary.

Fortunately the firefighters' efforts were able to save several other buildings located near the tackle shop, Shepherd said. Once again, the wind was a factor that could have caused a bad situation to become even worse.

Damage to the building was estimated at $40,000, Shepherd said. The estimated loss to merchandise in the store was $5,000.

Shepherd noted that dry conditions have led to several of these types of fires in recent weeks. Earlier this month, nearby Owen County experienced a 40-acre field fire.

"You've gotta watch what you're doing, especially on a windy day," Shepherd said.

Last week's warmer weather caused the grass to green up, so Shepherd believes the danger for field fires is going to be reduced.

In addition, rain is in the forecast for today and later this week along with the return of spring temperatures in the 60's.

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