Residents Collect What They Can Following Massive Fire

Published 04/10 2014 07:30PM

Updated 04/10 2014 07:39PM

An overnight fire guts an entire building at the Sugar Mill Creek Apartments, leaving at least 20 people with nowhere to go. After spending four hours fighting Wednesday night's fire, crews spent most of the day demolishing the charred shell of the building. However, before doing so, some residents tried to save all that they could.

The fire was no accident, investigators said. Michelle Hershberger, 47, has been charged with arson and is being held without bond in the Vanderburgh County Jail. Her booking photo has not been released. Hershberger admitted to lighting her curtains on fire Wednesday night, according to the affidavit. Hershberger claimed to have done so because the 'voices in her head made her do it,' according to the affidavit.

Hershberger was under the care of ResCare, according to police, which is an agency that offers support services to people with disabilities.

It didn't take long for flames to spread to the rest of the building, fire officials said. The quick spread of the fire was partly fueled by the wind and the absence of fire walls in the attic.

Amazingly, all of the other residents were able to make it out safely.

"We can rebuild buildings and buy new photos and pictures and a couch but what we can't do is bring a life back," said EFD District Chief Keith Jarboe. "If there's a positive, the positive is everyone got out safely last night."

After spending much of Thursday morning putting out hot spots, Ben Miller from the Building Commission surveyed what remained of the building. Because the fire caused extensive damage, Miller made the determination that the building had to be demolished immediately.

Five hours later, the building had been torn down.

"It was very dangerous," said Kip A. Staub. "That's why the building commissioner has the authority to say bring it down It was not a safe structure."

Throughout the entire demolition, small groups of people watched and listened as the charred building was taken down bit by bit.

"When you got people like this and the devil is working with their mind, telling them stuff to do," said Linda Foster, a neighbor. "They lost everything that they had. They lost everything. They have broken hearts and broken spirits it is just something that no know one will ever know what we went through."

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