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Investigators looking into cause of Rensselaer fire

After a massive fire burned down an entire strip mall in Rensselaer on Sunday. Investigators are piecing together what happened.

Posted: Nov 18, 2019 5:10 PM
Updated: Nov 18, 2019 6:18 PM

JASPER COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI)—Investigators have started looking into what caused a fire that destroyed 22 businesses at the Rensselaer Town Mall Sunday afternoon. 

Crews were out Monday morning tearing down parts of the building to keep it from caving in or onto the street.

Building Inspector and Fire Chief Kenny Haun said they will then start to fence of the property. Haun said the department couldn't believe it when they received the call.

"When the initial call came in; in my head I'm thinking this can't be true,” said Haun.

Haun said crews spent 8 hours putting out the fires.

"We've got a crew working on the other side right now,” said Haun. “Pushing the walls in to keep it from falling out in the street. Safety issue is the big concern right now."

Many business owners like Branch Manager for Express Employment Professionals, Kim Yeoman, are trying to pick up what's left and move on.

"The day after,” said Yeoman. “Business as usual. We are up and running and doing the same thing just obviously in a new location or temporary location."

Yeoman said it's still very difficult but she's confident things will work out.

"Try to build everything back up,” said Yeoman. “Return to business as usual as you can and don't give up. I mean I know we're not going to, so."

The community still continues to grieve over a building they say shaped Downtown Rensselaer.

"Lot of memories in this town,” said Rensselaer Resident Mary Arnott. “Born and raised here shopped at those buildings, it's a tragedy."

Haun said while nothing can replace the Town Mall. He's hopeful the city will pull through.

"We always recover,” said Haun. “This is probably my third of fourth of what I consider a major fire like this. We've always came out of it. This is a great community."

Haun said they are working with the property owner of the strip mall to determine when the buildings will be completely demolished.

He said it will be weeks before they determine a cause for the fire.

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