Tipp City bookstore fire not suspicious

3 people taken to hospitals for smoke inhalation

Tipp City Fire Chief and owner of the Browse Awhile Books talked to NewsCenter 7's Steve Baker about possible ghosts living in the historic building.

Three people were taken to hospitals after fire destroyed a Tipp City bookstore Tuesday.

  • Owner estimates $1 million in inventory lost
  • 3 people suffer smoke inhalation
  • Building built in 1871
  • Building listed in National Register of Historic Places

UPDATE @ 2:16 p.m. (June 22):

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The cause of this fire is undetermined as of Wednesday afternoon but is not suspicious, according to a fire report.

UPDATE @ 5:40 p.m. (June 21):

A bookstore at the heart of the historic district in downtown Tipp City caught fire Tuesday morning, causing $600,000 to $1 million in damage and sending three people to hospitals.

Bill Jones, owner of Browse Awhile Books, estimated more than $1 million in inventory was lost in the fire in the 100 block of East Main Street.

Tipp City Fire Chief Steve Kessler said his damage estimates include $400,000 to the building and $200,000 to the contents. He said the estimate could change based on what can be salvaged.

The fire was first reported Monday evening, but it rekindled and crews were called out again Tuesday morning. As crews were arriving on scene around 5:10 a.m., they reported heavy smoke and flames.

Faulty wiring is believed to be the cause of the original fire from Monday evening, according to Kessler. He said the rekindling could have been caused by a different problem, but the cause might not be determined because of the extent of damage. The building had working smoke alarms.

Two people were taken to area hospitals for smoke inhalation. A firefighter was taken for deydration. All were treated and released.

The building — built in 1871 — is in the Old Tippecanoe Main Street Historic District and is listed in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places. There are two apartments above the business.

Officials said the occupants of the upstairs apartment were initially trapped when the first emergency units arrived. Police officers were able to talk the occupants out of a window and down a fire escape to safety.

Jones, who’s owned the store since 1990, said some books can be salvaged. But among the items destroyed are books up to $3,000 in price, he said.

“This is a historic district, so it has to come out looking exactly the same,” said Jones, who has insurance. “But all of that is in the future. I’m still in a little bit of shock.”

Mike Curtis, who lives a block and a half from the bookstore, said there is a lot of nostalgia with the business. He said his wife helped design the interior of the apartment a few months ago.

“This is a huge impact on our downtown,” Curtis said. “We like this downtown and what we’ve got going on down here. … Everybody’s safe, and that’s all that matters. But now it’s rebuilding time.”

The Downtown Tipp City Partnership has started a GoFundMe page for relief efforts to all affected by the fire, the organization announced on its Facebook page.

“It’s heart-warming and touching,” Jones said. “I’ve got more hugs (Tuesday) than I’ve gotten in the last six months. That’s Tipp City. It’s a close-knit town. Everybody cares about everybody else. We’re going to dig out the best we can and see where we go from there.”

Kessler said a second building had water and smoke damage.

The building to the west of the bookstore houses the Merchant31 clothing store, where inventory kept upstairs was damaged by fire and smoke.

Heather Dorsten, director of the Downtown Tipp City Partnership organization, said the bookstore and its “quirky array” of books cannot be replaced.

“We are sad not only because of the economic development hit downtown. When it comes to the historical architecture of the building, we are all devastated for the loss,” Dorsten said.

— Contributing writer Nancy Bowman contributed to this report.

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