Blaze overtakes historic building in downtown Winchester |

At approximately 8:00 p.m. on Saturday July 16, the Winchester Indiana Fire Department received a call for an aggressive 3 alarm fire located directly in front of their station.

Crews quickly moved to 100 S. Main Street in downtown Winchester to begin battling the blaze in which smoke could be seen miles outside of Winchester.

The nearly 7,500 square foot brick building had smoke billowing from the roof as it arrived. Fire crews immediately began to battle the three-story building fire. Attacking from both the interior and the roof, the crews soon found thick smoke and extreme heat. The fire was quickly located in the south central part of the building. After several attempts to fight the fire, firefighters were forced to fight it from the outside.

Local electricity and gas companies were immediately called in to cut service to the area. Power was disconnected from the Franklin Street area to the North Street area but was restored before 11 p.m.

Area law enforcement officers abruptly shut down the town center as a large crowd quickly gathered as news of the massive blaze devoured the corner lot at the furthest intersection frequented Randolph County. Thick gray smoke from the burning building quickly passed the area.

With the grand Randolph County Courthouse in the background, area fire crews climbed Winchester’s newly purchased ladder to reach the roof and put down the soon-emerging flames. Roaring flames roared past the rear roof area, prompting firefighters to attack from areas difficult to reach from the street.

The building, built in the late 1850s by Adam Hirsch, once housed the iconic Rainbow Room and Waltz Drugstore. A flower shop and restaurants have also taken up residence in the area. Although there are currently no businesses located in the building, plans were underway to reopen the location. The floor was also unoccupied at the time.

Owned by Rowana Foster of Yorktown, Indiana, the building had already caught fire twice in the past 15 years. Foster was in the process of applying for grants and obtaining funds to improve the commercial building.

The Liberty Area Fire Marshal arrived on scene around 10 p.m. and began speaking to building owners.

Next to the burning building is Robert Cook’s law office, the newly opened Shine Salon to the east, then Dixie’s Dance Studio to the south. Dixie’s dance studio was again damaged by the fire as it had been in previous fires.

With not only the normal conditions that fire crews experience during a fire, the wet weather conditions have also taken their toll on the crews. A firefighter from the Farmland Volunteer Fire Department was transported from the scene due to heat exhaustion.

Crews from Winchester, Union City, White River, Farmland and Portland fought the blaze for nearly 4 hours as the blaze continued late into the night. The crews, however, remained on site until 2 a.m. Rain on Sunday helped limit possible reignited hot spots.

Like a small hometown, businesses in the area quickly stepped up to help keep fire crews hydrated and fed. Pizza House and A&B Cafe all donated food and beverages, and Walmart donated a pallet of bottled water. There were also others who provided various drinks, food, services and support to crews at the scene during the fire.

The fire remains under investigation.

Winchester Fire Department Chief Dwayne Wiggans would like to thank everyone helping to fight the blaze. “Cooperation in these kinds of situations is always good. But when a community comes together to support my crew and those who come to help us, it’s truly an amazing thing.

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