INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) - Final demolition orders are in on the south side. 31 total homes will be torn down following last month's explosion at Richmond Hill—two fewer than first reported. Meanwhile, appeals on the rest of the orders were denied Thursday.
24-Hour News 8 has also learned the deadline for demolition is moving.
More than 90 total homes were damaged during the explosion, and Indianapolis' Department of Code Enforcement initially identified 33 houses for demolition, and had pushed for the work to be completed by the end of the month. But, only 14 homes have been torn down so far, and just eight additional permits for demolition have been filed, said department spokesperson Al Ensley.
17 homes now slated for demolition are still standing, and Code Enforcement said some may remain standing for several more weeks.
At a hearing Thursday in front of an administrative law judge, each of those residents was given a chance to appeal their demolition order.
Only one did: Tony Quakenbush, whose insurance company appealed on his behalf.
He called the entire process "agonizing."
"It's been a nightmare," he said. "I mean, it really has, from the day of the explosion up until today. Not knowing what's going to happen, not knowing where I'm going to take my family, not knowing where we're going to end up has been tough."
This was their home for a decade, Quakenbush told the administrative law judge. His insurance company said it could be fixed, and asked the judge for more time to study the structure and make that case.
That brought hope, Quakenbush said.
But, he also thought--what would happen if the home wasn't fixed the right way?
"I don't think I could ever go back into that house and feel 100 percent comfortable and 100 percent safe, not worrying about what's going to happen in the next 5-10 years," he told the judge. "We knew what had to be done. But, again--10 years of family, 10 years of love, 10 years of improvements, everything we've done and put into our home. Now we know it's all gone."
The judge's decision came quickly: the home will be torn down with the others.
For Quakenbush, it came as a strange sense of relief.
"As of right now, I don't feel like I have any peace, but at least I know where we're going. I know the next step we're going to take, and the rebuilding process can actually begin," he said.
For the city, stories like his have brought a softening of demolition deadlines.
"We're very much aware that this is a stressful time for all of the homeowners. We're trying to work with them. We're aware that there are a lot of factors like contractors, permits, etc. So, we're trying to be a little bit flexible as far as when the homes actually come down," Ensley said.
As long as permits are still being filed, the city won't take legal action to force demolition, he added.
"We're just trying to return their lives to normal and ensure they have a safe structure to move into," Ensley said.
It's a small nugget of help during a tough time, but it's little comfort for so many who have lost everything.
The bottom line for them is that "normal" still seems far away.
"We're living in a 1,300 square foot apartment from a 3,000 square foot home," Quakenbush said. "We've all lost so much. There's nothing easy about this process, that's for sure."
The investigation into the explosion, which investigators have said was not an accident, is ongoing. No suspects have been named at this time.
Weather models are lining up better and better, so the Forecast 8 team is confident enough to start putting snow projections for the winter weather through Friday night.
SWAT members were called to the city's northwest side Wednesday night.
In the wake of tornadoes that ravaged towns like Kokomo, Hoosiers now have another concern.