Crawfordsville loses city block in downtown fire

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

CRAWFORDSVILLE -- Most of a city block in downtown Crawfordsville was lost to a fire early Tuesday morning.

Several Putnam County fire departments also responded to the scene to assist.

According to Crawfordsville Fire Chief Todd Barton, the first call of a fire in the 100 block of South Washington Street came in about 3:35 a.m. and the Crawfordsville Fire Department was on the scene in minutes.

Robin Baumann, who was working at the Silver Dollar Bar, and another person were cleaning up the bar when they smelled smoke.

"We checked the kitchen area and did not see anything, but still smelled smoke," she said. "We opened the back door and saw flames racing up the back side of the building. We called 911."

Those first to arrive saw occupants of the upstairs apartments trying to get out of the windows.

"We rescued five or six individuals from the windows and helped another down the stairs," Barton said.

Barton said Crawfordsville Police Department is trying to account for everyone who lived in the apartments.

"As of this time we are still trying to account of everyone," he said. "The police are trying to ascertain who may have been at home and who wasn't."

The heaviest toll was done to the buildings owned by the Gianakis family. The family owned 16 commercial and apartment units and had owned them since 1982.

The blaze quickly spread but was stopped about two thirds of the way through the building.

The building on the corner of Pike Street and South Washington Street was completely destroyed. In addition, the Silver Dollar Bar was completely destroyed. Firefighters were able to stop the blaze before it reached the JM Thompson Insurance business.

"This is a sad day for the residents of Crawfordsville, " Crawfordsville Mayor John Zumer said. "Our hats need to go off to the fire department and all those area departments who helped to be able to stop this fire from spreading even further. While it is very devastating it could have been even worse if not for the efforts of the firefighters."

The cause of the blaze has not been determined as state investigators have not been able to get inside the building. An investigation will begin as soon as possible.

Support came from virtually every county fire department and as far away as Russellville, Roachdale and Greencastle.

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