Apartment Building Owner Speaks Out After Latest Fire

The empty apartment building on Short Street in Lawrenceburg has had three fires in less than two years.

The vacant apartment building on Short Street caught fire Tuesday, January 8 after an electric line was windblown to make contact with the guttering. Photo by Chuck Folop.

(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - The Indiana State Fire Marshal says it was a power line which sparked a fire at a vacant apartment building in downtown Lawrenceburg.

The empty building on the 200 block of Short Street was badly damaged in the fire on Tuesday afternoon.

"The fire was not incendiary," says Indiana Department of Homeland Security public information officer Adam Sturm. "It was concluded to be a natural fire caused by power lines contacting the guttering system on the building."

Winds were gusting strongly Tuesday afternoon, which may have caused a power line near the building to come in contact as a nearby "piggybacked" utility pole shifted. The roof eventually caught fire as Lawrenceburg firefighters were on scene waiting for electric to be shut off.

The building has been vacant since a fire last February. That fire followed another blaze which occurred there in April of 2017.

Building owner Maria LaRosa tells Eagle Country 99.3 there was no electricity actively servicing the building at the time of Tuesday's fire. Electric service lines were visibly disconnected from the meter boxes on the side of the building Tuesday.

The city had taken LaRosa to court last year in an attempt to get the building deemed unfit for human habitation after the second fire. A local judge dismissed the case in October, according to court records. LaRosa says the city's building inspector had broken into the building, which led to the case dismissal. 

LaRosa claims her attempts to have the February 2018 fire damage repaired were blocked by the city. She says she paid thousands of dollars for engineering work the city requested, but was still kept from repairing the damaged roof, which had been covered with a tarp up until this week's fire.

"They are trying to make me out as incompetent and I am far from incompetent," says LaRosa.

The building owner believes the city wants to acquire the property for redevelopment. 

"This is really a sad, poor way to go about it," she says.

LaRosa says her apartment building is insured. She did not speak to its future after the latest fire there.

Lawrenceburg Municipal Utilities crews were back in the area of Short Street on Wednesday setting at least one new utility pole and performing other work.

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