JASPER COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Community members in Rensselaer are frustrated after a large fire burned down a shopping center. A former business owner says she complained about the issues inside The Town Mall.
"That's half the block burned out now,” said neighbor Randy Peck. “So, yea, that's pretty sad."
Sunday afternoon, people watched as fire crews fought flames at the Town Mall strip. Peck has lived in the community all of his life. He said he was heartbroken when he heard of the destruction.
"It's sad for all the businesses that were in there,” said Peck. “People that rely on the businesses that were in there. But now those people's lively hood is gone."
Peck said he wasn't surprised when he'd heard the mall caught fire.
"They put a new roof on the place when they remodeled it and stuff,” said Peck. “Well, all that old wood was still in there. I mean it was just forever in there so it's very dry."
"I almost started crying because this could have been prevented,” said business owner Julie Wall.
Wall agreed with Peck. She owned an antique business called Endless Treasures in the Town Mall a year ago. She believed the fire started in the same space she rented.
"I was told that it was the furnace that started it, the faulty furnace,” said Wall. “But the wiring in the building is just as faulty."
Wall said she was forced to move locations because she was concerned.
"I reported it several different officials and nothing ever got done with it,” said Wall.
Wall said the result is the tragic destruction of many businesses, but she said the community will band together to help each other through it.
"Just like everywhere you see on any other city in our country,” said Peck. “They say hey we're fine we'll bounce back rebuild."
The cause is still under investigation.