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February 6, 2013

5:30 P.M. UPDATE: Fire destroys Jeffersonville duplex

Vehicle crashes into building, ruptures gas line

JEFFERSONVILLE — No one was injured as a Jeffersonville duplex burned to the ground early Wednesday morning.

The blaze began after a vehicle struck the building and its gas meter on the side of the structure, located in the 800 block of Watt Street at the corner of Ninth Street.

Jeffersonville firefighters responded at 2:26 a.m., within three minutes of receiving the call, Jeffersonville Fire Department Maj. Mike McCutcheon said. Despite the quick response, the ruptured gas line continued to feed the blaze for more than 45 minutes before officials with the gas company responded and shut off the gas.

McCutcheon said the vehicle that side-swiped the duplex struck the gas meter, an air-conditioner compressor and an electrical utility box. The fire is believed to have started after the leaking gas was ignited from a spark released by the damaged electrical box, he said.

McCutcheon said flames had engulfed half the building before firefighters’ arrival, and that their efforts were no match for the fire nourished by the open gas line. McCutcheon said the loss of the home was a bitter experience for the firefighters.

“It was tough for us to see the structure lost as much as it was,” he said. “But, the gas created quite a difficulty for us.”

He said firefighters were not able to complete standard operational tasks as the gas line fueled the fire and caused it to burn more rapidly.

“It is an unfortunate circumstance,” McCutcheon said. “It’s a structure that’s totally destroyed and people lost belongings and everything in the homes, but the best thing is that no one lost their life or was injured.”

He said one of the duplex’s homes was vacant at the time of the fire. In the other home, a woman, a man and their two dogs were able to exit the home unharmed, except for heat damage to the paws of one of the dogs that also suffered slight smoke inhalation, McCutcheon said.

He said there were no visible signs of damage to surrounding homes, and fire crews cleared the scene shortly before 9 a.m.

The blue Volkswagen Jetta that crashed into the home was still on the scene when firefighters responded, McCutcheon said, adding that it appeared the driver had abandoned the vehicle.

Jeffersonville police reported late Wednesday afternoon that officers are actively investigating the whereabouts of the motorist who fled from the Volkswagen. No suspects had been identified as about 5 p.m., police reported.

Check newsandtribune.com for updates.

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