TERRE HAUTE —
Smoke could be smelled for several blocks Thursday night as a fire at Garfield Towers sent hundreds into the street and seven to area hospitals.
Terre Haute Fire Chief Jeff Fisher and Mayor Duke Bennett were still on the scene well after dark as the incident which began about 8:58 p.m. shifted focus from safety to residency.
The towers, located at 1200 Maple Ave., are facilities in the Terre Haute Housing Authority and contain about 240 residents, a number of whom suffer disabilities, Fisher said.
The fire itself, he said, was extinguished quickly.
“We know it started in the lobby of the sixth floor,” he said outside the towers, surrounded by emergency responders hauling out oxygen equipment. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Heavy black smoke was visible from the sixth and seventh floors, and firefighters used ladders and lifts to enter the building through windows at those levels, performing search-and-rescue operations to identify and remove all residents.
Property damage was unknown Thursday evening, but at least seven were transported to area hospitals. Six of those were believed to have suffered from smoke inhalation, with one suffering second- and third-degree burns, Fisher said.
Bennett and others arranged for busing of residents to a temporary shelter as city police attempted to quell the growing crowd and manage traffic. The blocks surrounding Maple and Grand avenues were packed with emergency vehicles and the traffic of residents’ family members, identifying themselves as such while trying to get past bystanders.
Hundreds of people, in addition to the residents, were standing in the side parking lots of the towers.
At about 9:20 p.m., a second fire was reported in a commercial structure in the 2500 block of South 19th Street, reportedly another facility of the Terre Haute Housing Authority.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.