East Enterprise Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jeff Darling wants to assure the residents of the community his department serves:
There is no arsonist in East Enterprise.
Although the community has been beset over the past two years generally and the past couple of months specifically with several structural fires — many in eyesight of the fire house, Jeff Darling says that all of the fires have been investigated not only by the local department but also by State Fire Marshal’s office investigators and private investigators representing insurance companies, and everyone comes to the same conclusion:
All of the fires have explained causes and were accidental in their origins.
“We hope that we can put to rest some of the rumors and fears that have been going around,” Jeff Darling said. “Yes, it seems like there have been a lot of fires happening right around the town and near the firehouse, but all of the fires have been accidental. We’ve just been unlucky, that’s all.”
Jeff Darling said that the first fire happened approximately two years ago, and was a home fire right across from the firehouse. He said that house fire began with a chimney fire that got into the walls of the house and up into the attic.
“The owner wasn’t home at the time, and a bystander came to the firehouse – we were actually having a meeting at the time – and told us that the house was on fire,” Jeff Darling said.
Jeff Darling said that both the East Enterprise department and a private insurance investigator both did independent investigations and both found that the cause was a chimney fire.
The next fire was the home of Donald and Linda Pavy last year.
“We investigated it and the insurance company investigated and we both came up with the same conclusion,” Jeff Darling said. “It was either an extension cord that was running to a freezer, or it was the freezer itself. The freezer was in the back of the house and was fairly old. That’s what started that fire.”
Jeff Darling said that the Pavy house fire was in the middle of the day, and that Linda Pavy was at home at the time and was in the front of the house, and when she discovered the fire in the back of the home, it was too late to save the structure.
Next came the house next to the telephone company in East Enterprise. The house is owned by Dale and Karen Bowland, who also own “Your East Enterprise Market”, and was a rental.
“That fire was started by a space heater and it was about 2 a.m. and the renters were home when it started,” Jeff Darling said.
Jeff Darling said that the department also responded to a fire down in Florence, still not too far from East Enterprise and in the vicinity of the East Enterprise department’s Florence station. He said that the Florence fire are still under investigation by his department and the insurance company, so there has not yet been a definite conclusion as to the cause of the fire.
The final structural fire was at the Countryside Cafe in the middle of town. Jeff Darling said that since it was a commercial property, the fire was investigated by the East Enterprise department, an insurance investigator, and the Indiana State Fire Marshal’s office.
“That fire has been investigated by three different parties, and all of us have come up with the same cause,” Jeff Darling said. “There was an extension cord that was running through the back door to power some outside lighting, and over time the door opening and closing cut into the insulation.”
There was also a camping trailer fire at the home of Greg Peelman. Jeff Darling said that the camper was such a total loss there isn’t much left to investigate, but the trailer had been plugged in and had the refrigerator running, so an electrical short is suspected.
Jeff Darling said that his department could have responded to the same number of fires in their jurisdiction over the same amount of time, but located in different geographic areas, and no one would think anything of it. Because all of these fires are happening in the same vicinity, it has caused some people to fear that the fires are being set.
“The big concern I think right now is that there have been four fires within eyesight of the East Enterprise firehouse,” Jeff Darling said. “Which I can understand, and it’s really bad luck more than anything. It’s just one of those things.”