A devastating fire at the University of Valparaiso was finally extinguished early on Saturday, but questions remain over what will happen next.
The fire, which destroyed the university’s arts and psychology building, 1003 Campus Drive, was extinguished around 2:30 a.m., Valparaiso Fire Department spokesman Bob Schulte said Saturday. after burning overnight. The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the department and the Indiana State Fire Marshal, he said.
Firefighters were dispatched to the building at 4:30 p.m. Friday after receiving a call from someone who smelled smoke inside, Schulte said. When they arrived, they made sure no one was inside and began to focus their efforts on the northeast side of the building, where many art supplies were kept, he said.
Approximately 45 minutes later, the fire continued to build from a combination of chemicals such as acetone, acetylene and other flammable materials stored on the northeast side and oxygen entering through the windows shattered by the heat, Schulte said.
“Unfortunately the increased fuel load entered the ceiling and burned through the roof, so once it entered the attic of the building we deemed the building ‘unsafe’ and began to fight the fire from the outside only with air currents,” he said. . “It was a very rapid progression of fire.”
A spokesperson for VU confirmed on Friday that the building was on fire and was working with local fire departments to put out the fire. The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday.
“As always, the safety of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority,” the spokesperson said in an email. “We would also like to express our gratitude to the Valparaiso Fire Department and Police Department.”
Neither students and staff nor firefighters were injured in the blaze, Schulte said. The building, however, appears to be a “total loss”.
“There’s a roof on the front left, but pretty much only the walls are standing,” he said.
Valparaiso University Police and Valparaiso Police, as well as Chesterton, Morgan Township, Union Township and Washington Township Fire Departments assisted, as did the Valparaiso Water Department, Schulte said.
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance writer for the Post-Tribune.