The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, March 16, 2016 6:15 pm

Crews battle Coliseum Boulevard fire

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette
Channing Matthews huddled against the Lakeside Cafe Sunday, watching crews fight flames and smoke at the Coliseum Inn, a residential motel in the 1000 block of Coliseum Boulevard.

Matthews, seven months pregnant, lives at the 40-unit motel with her sister, she said, and knew there was something amiss hours before the fire department arrived about 2:45 p.m.

Assistant Chief Paul Veldman said the fire was contained in just under an hour and would have been extinguished faster if it weren't for the attic spaces that caused problems.

The crew had to open up the roof to let the flames escape. Otherwise, the fire would have ripped through the rest of the units, he said.

Although he could not identify the source of the fire, Veldman said the buildings would not be fit for occupancy. "We're cutting power to the whole thing," he said. He predicted that the motel would not be occupied "for a while, until they get some repairs and weathering in."

Matthews, whose baby is due in March, knew there was something going on in the apartment below for hours before the Fort Wayne Fire Department arrived with six of its trucks and plenty of Carhartt-clad crew. She had called the maintenance man, she said, and when they opened up a bathroom vent, there was "a big mass cloud of smoke and fire."

Matthews will be one of about 120 people who the Red Cross found shelter for Sunday evening, said John Krill, Disaster Action Team chairman for Northeast Indiana Red Cross. Krill reported that the Red Cross figured there were about 40 units with two to three people inside each unit.

The last time the Red Cross had anything this big to take care of was three or four years ago when Motel Wayne ignited, he said. "In fact, in was that same vicinity," he said.

The Coliseum Inn serves as a home for many people, said Dakota Powell, 19, who moved out Sunday.

Sitting in a car with a young woman and a baby, he said the rents average about $130 a week, but it's not bad. "There are no cockroaches and no bugs," he said., but there's also no kitchens. "That's really all that sucks," he added. "There's people here that can't afford nothing else but this."

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