orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

February 26, 2013

Investigation continues into Friday night fire

Tommy Mann Jr.
The Orange Leader

VIDOR — Investigators are still seeking answers Monday following the largest structural fire in Vidor in recent memory.

Chief Bryant Champagne of Orange County Emergency Services District 1 said investigators are still looking into the cause of the structure fire which occurred Friday, Feb. 22, in the old Tower Medical Center building, located in the 500 block of North Main Street in Vidor.

The fire was so large and so intense that Main Street was completely shut down to traffic from the eastbound feeder road at Main Street and Interstate 10 to East and West Courtland as traffic was re-routed around the area.

“This was one of the largest municipal fires I have ever dealt with,” Champagne said on Monday. “It was very intense heat. The structure had a flat roof, metal beams for support and cinder block walls. The heat made it like a kiln.”

The fire was reported prior to 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 22 and was extinguished at approximately 11:30 p.m., Friday. The last unit cleared the scene shortly after 1:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 23.

Champagne said approximately 50 emergency responders from Orange County ESD 1 and other neighboring fire departments answered the call for assistance. Assisting agencies included Bridge City Fire and Rescue, Little Cypress Volunteer Fire Department, the Deweyville Volunteer Fire Department and the recently created Orange County ESD 4 which is a merger of the McLewis and Mauriceville Volunteer Fire Departments.

“It was a tremendous unified effort from all of the agencies involved,” Champagne explained. “That support and effort helped to prevent this fire from spreading to any of the nearby structures. There was no additional damage, and, most importantly, no injuries.”

Champagne and other personnel spent most of Saturday at the scene of the fire searching for clues into its cause and point of origin. Champagne said state investigators are expected to arrive on Tuesday to continue the investigation.

The Tower Medical Center location is located at 535 N. Main St. in Vidor. According to Jimmy Smith of Flair Real Estate, the property occupies approximately 13,000 square feet and has been for sale approximately one year.

According to reports from the Vidor Police Department, officers responded to two calls of a burglary at this location within one hour on Friday, Feb. 15, one week prior to the fire.

The first report at 7:16 p.m., Friday, Feb. 15, indicated two vehicles were in the parking lot, but all doors appeared to be locked and there was no indication of anyone inside.

The second report, at 8:08 p.m. the same night, officers located four people - three males and one female - inside the building after finding a door open. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was called to assist and Smith was called to look at reported damage to the building but was unable to attend due to a death in the family.