INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - The Indianapolis Fire Department has battled some big fires that
are now part of the city’s collective memory.
The biggest in city history was just over 35 years ago. It
started November 5, 1973, in the vacant W.T. Grant building in the
first block of East Washington. The five-story brick building was
being demolished. The blaze quickly spread to two other buildings.
Firefighters rescued office workers trapped during their lunch
hours, only six people were hurt.
The Bemis Bag Company burned just south of downtown on November
3, 1989. The huge brick structure was no longer a factory, but had
once been slated for a condominium project. Investigators said the
fire was sparked by four boys playing with candles.
While not remembered for spectacular flames, the Athletic Club
fire on February 5, 1992, was a firefighting tragedy. A flashover
trapped several firefighters on the third floor. Two of those
firefighters and a guest of the club died. The jury for the rape
trial of boxer Mike Tyson was being sequestered at the club at the
time of the fire.
Early, on February 21, 1995, there was another big fire along
the downtown canal in another condominium project under
construction. Sixty firefighters battled winds topping 30 miles an
hour. When it was over, a clubhouse and half of the 124 condos were
On July 5, 1996, Metalworks Lubricants, an oil recycling
facility south of downtown burned sending a plume of thick, black
smoke skyward. Firefighters were cursed by low water pressure from
a single six-inch water main. Two hundred thousand gallons of oil
spilled during a fire later blamed on an electrical short.