Fort Wayne Fire Department spokeswoman Stacey Fleming said the cause of a downtown fire Thursday night won't be determined for at least 24 hours.
She said the atmosphere was ripe for fires, with heat and high winds possibly causing the initial structure fire to spread to two other nearby homes.
Firefighters battled the blaze in the 600 block of Sturgis Street for nearly three hours.
Fleming said the fire department responded to a structure fire call at about 7:40 p.m. Thursday at 611 Sturgis Street. The first-arriving engine found that two homes were on fire.
A resident of one home was asleep at the time of the fire, but awoke to the sound of his smoke detector and evacuated before firefighters arrived, Fleming said. She said no other information was available about the residents of the two other homes.
Firefighters made entry to the first home, but then Fleming said a flash fire occurred. A flash fire or flash over is a sudden, intense fire, characterized by its high heat and deadly nature, when the air in a confined space becomes combustible.
Fleming said firefighters recognized the warning signs of the flash fire and were able to evacuate the structure. Firefighters were forced to fight the fire from the outside.
Down power lines forced firefighters to fight the blaze from the front of the home until power was shut off to the homes in the area.
Traffic was diverted off Broadway Avenue at Jefferson Boulevard because the road was completely blocked off. Fire engines and police cars surrounded the area, asking onlookers to stay behind police caution tape.
Fire crews were able to get the fire under control shortly after 10 p.m.
Fleming said about 60 firefighters in total made the scene, including off-duty firefighters that were called in for assistance. To ensure other calls were not neglected, Fleming said surrounding fire departments were put on standby, but she said aside from Sturgis Street, the night was "relatively quiet."
Firefighters were cycled out and relieved by other crews, due to the high heat of the day. At about 10 p.m. the temperature was still close to 90 degrees.
Paramedics were on the scene for what Fleming called the "rehab center." Paramedics checked vital signs for firefighters taking breaks. Coolers of water and Gatorade and wet towels were available for firefighters, many of whom stripped off their gear revealing sweat-drenched shirts.
A truck and trailer were also on the scene refilling firefighter air tanks.
Local American Red Cross volunteers John and Angele Judd made the scene to assist the families and residents affected by the fire. One resident requested immediate assistance, including a hotel room for the night.
Fleming said firefighters would remain on the scene throughout the night to ensure rekindling doesn't occur. Investigators are still working to determine a cause, she said.
Friday morning Alisa Rude, owner of 615 Sturgis, one of the homes damaged in the fire was walking around the structure looking through the windows to see the damage.
“It was a really cute little house,” Rude said.
Built in the 1890's it is referred to as a worker's cottage. Rude said she had restored the inside and was just getting ready to paint the exterior when the fire happened.
“I guess that won't be happening,” Rude said.
Rude said no one really knows what started the fire next door but a lot of neighbors were saying they thought it might have been fireworks. All that remained of her neighbor's house was a pile of debris. Rude said workers bulldozed down the front of the house next door around 3 a.m. Friday morning. Splintered charged wood, and bits and pieces of furniture were all that remained of what had been a home.