HVAC installer error caused Indiana apartment fire

Written on: March 3, 2017 by ICM


new albany fireNEW ALBANY — The fire that destroyed a portion of the $26.5 million Breakwater luxury apartment complex was caused by an error made by an HVAC installer, investigators have determined.
According to an incident report released Thursday afternoon, the fire likely began in the ceiling area above the mechanical room in apartment unit 217. Joe Miller, an HVAC installer employed by Del Monde Heating and Air Conditioning, told investigators that he was soldering a copper line in the ceiling of that same unit on Friday, Feb. 24 sometime between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. That’s when the insulation around the copper line caught fire.
Miller said he tried to put the fire out himself using multiple fire extinguishers for approximately 45 minutes. He told investigators that he thought he put the fire out. Other contractors reported seeing smoke and knowing “something was on fire,” but nobody ever called the fire department.

By 5 a.m. the next morning — Saturday, Feb. 25 — multiple fire departments responded to flames at The Breakwater at the corner of Fourth and Elm streets. Around 90 firefighters battled wind-fanned flames and heavy smoke for more than 24 hours.

More than 80 of the building’s 125 units were affected by the fire. Crews began demolishing a portion of the building on Sunday, citing the deteriorating integrity of the building. The estimated value loss is between $9 million to 12 million, according to the incident report. A second 66-unit building in the complex was not directly damaged by the fire.
Flaherty & Collins Properties, which owns the complex, announced Thursday that rebuilding is scheduled to begin next month. Austin Carmony, vice president of development for Flaherty & Collins, said the insurance company should release the building late next week.

“We will then remove the debris and clean-up the area, and begin the rebuild on those apartments in early April, with the goal of project completion by the end of the year,” Carmony said in a news release.
Carmony said 39 of the 125 units can be salvaged.
“The rebuild on those units and portion of Building B already began with clean-up and water extraction earlier this week. From there, we will be moisture mapping the building and then start with tearing out large portions of drywall, flooring, and ceilings,” he said.
A Flaherty and Collins spokesperson could not be reached by phone or email by press time. It’s unclear whether any action will be taken against the HVAC installation company or employee.
Article courtesy of News & TribuneJeffersonville, IN