LAPORTE — The cause of a fire that destroyed more than 40 storage units and their contents was still under investigation Monday at LaPorte.
LaPorte Fire Chief Andy Snyder said it may be difficult to find the source of Thursday night’s blaze due to the extent of the damage.
“There was so much devastation and intensity of fire; we will do our best to make a decision,” he said.
Lynn Grenough was among those grateful to have renters insurance to cover what they lost in their burnt down storage units.
His family rented two of the destroyed units containing furniture and other belongings salvaged from their home after it was damaged by fire in November 2020.
She said her units also contained plenty of new furniture purchased to replace items lost in the home fire.
Grenough described feeling sick to his stomach while assessing the damage.
“I’m in shock,” she said.
She said her family was living in a rental home until a settlement was reached on their fire-damaged home in the Rustic Hills subdivision between La Porte and Michigan City.
Grenough said the storage units were used because their rental home was partially furnished and didn’t have space for all of their belongings.
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Snyder said two firefighters were treated at the scene for smoke inhalation and heat-related exhaustion.
Firefighters responded after 8 p.m. and remained on the scene for about eight hours.
Snyder said the fire was very difficult to put out because each unit was like an oven holding heat in until each unit’s doors were opened or holes were drilled in the roof above each unit to get water on the flames.
“It was just complete hell in every room,” he said.
Off-duty firefighters were called in to relieve firefighters who were exhausting themselves faster than usual due to the intensity of the heat and the greater efforts required to extinguish the flames.
“The firefighters have been in high demand,” he said.
Snyder said the heat also triggered ammunition stored inside the building about 200 feet long and 60 feet wide.
He said most of the contents appeared to be things like clothing, furniture and other typical personal effects.
Snyder said the investigation will include reviewing surveillance video from the storage units to see if there is any footage that could provide clues as to how the fire started.
He said there had been issues in the past with people living in the units, but the owner said no one lived there before the fire.
Snyder said it was the tenants’ responsibility to have their belongings insured.
LaPorte attorney Doug Biege said owners of storage units, like homeowners, generally don’t provide insurance for other people’s property.
However, storage unit owners are not out of the woods financially, if blame is placed on them for a tenant’s damage claim.
Biege said tenants who make a claim are usually paid first by their insurance companies, who then seek reimbursement if someone is found responsible for their client’s loss.
He said a determination is then made whether the offending individual has insurance before any attempt can be made to negotiate a settlement.
“If his policy covers it, then it becomes a dispute between the insurers if they don’t agree,” Biege said.