(La Porte, IN) - Police are helping to investigate a fire that destroyed a huge old factory building in LaPorte.
LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said the cause of the October 5 blaze was still not known but reasons not to rule out arson as a possibility still exist. While there was no gas or electric service to the old American Rubber Products plant at 315 Brighton Street, there were reports of people breaking in and possibly living in the structure over the years.
The Indiana State Fire Marshal’s Office planned to bring dogs to comb through the remains. The dogs are trained to detect the presence of any gasoline or some other fuel that would indicate arson.
Snyder said the dogs would also be used to uncover any bodies of people who may have been inside at the time of the fire and didn’t make it out.
Police are also involved just in case signs of foul play are later confirmed.
“If there’s a criminal act that has taken place, we definitely want them to be involved from the start,” Snyder said.
The flames spread rapidly because the building was used to store alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Snyder estimated one-third of the structure contained the highly flammable product, which would be taken to an incinerator near Plymouth for disposal.
Deanna Reese was not surprised to hear that arson was still a possibility. She grew up across the street from the plant until moving to Niles last year. Reese said it was not unusual to see people going inside the building and making noise after dark, sounds of people moving around at night, and glass breaking.
Snyder said it took about six million gallons of water to completely extinguish the fire, which burned for more than 60 hours. A major fire in 2003 at the former Dye Plumbing and Heating building at Lincolnway and Madison Street required about 1.3 million gallons of water.