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Investigators search for a cause of a fire that wrecked parts of a Fort Wayne business complex

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Heavy smoke and flames rose from a Fort Wayne commercial complex Thursday. Multiple businesses were damaged or destroyed.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - A big cleanup lies ahead for a commercial property near the Tecumseh Street Bridge, following a large fire that spread through the near eastside complex Thursday morning.

Firefighters had backed out of one portion of the facility before it collapsed.

By noon on Thursday, things had calmed down on the property that more than 20 years ago was home to the River City Bar and Grill.

But soon after the fire erupted around 7:30 a.m. flames shot out of the structure, at one point touching off some small explosions.

Firefighters believe the blaze started in an automotive-related business in a one-story section of the building that is essentially destroyed.

A non-profit organization called Tek Venture, that is a tenant in space close to where the fire started, sustained some fire damage, along with significant water and smoke damage.

Firefighters responded to get ready to attack the fire.

But scene commanders quickly realized that the area near the center of the blaze was at risk of caving in, so the order was given for firefighters to pull back.

"We had bricks separated, the mortar joints were gone, which is typically a sign that a collapse is imminent, so we backed the guys up, the gals, and then started launching water with two and a half inch hoses. And then it did collapse, so my guys did a really good job of making sure that didn't hurt anybody," said Fort Wayne Fire Department Deputy Chief Adam O'Connor.

"Members for a cheap price could come in and use all kinds of equipment, from blacksmithing, to welding, to ceramics, to sewing, it even had a theatrical stage. It was the land of opportunity and I don't know how much of it is going to be left," said Jeannette Jaquish, who worked for Tek Venture.

That operation may be shut down for weeks or even months, depending upon the level of damage inside.

Firefighters hoped to get any remaining hot spots under control soon, permitting a full inspection of the grounds to make sure no one was trapped inside by the flames.

No firefighters were hurt.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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