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Momper Insulation rising from the ashes at last

Fire destroyed Main Street location a year ago

Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 12:01 am

A year after a spectacular fire destroyed its main facility, a Fort Wayne company has overcome a series of bureaucratic hurdles and begun to rebuild.

“We had so many entities involved: the city, county, state, federal. And we had to do a couple of things, but we figured out how to make it happen legally. I said, 'We're operating in six different buildings. We need to get going,' ” said Momper Insulation President Matt Momper, whose family-owned business lost its 2431 Main St. location last Oct. 30 after a fire of undetermined origin destroyed the 34,000-square-foot building it had occupied since the early 1970s.

Within six months, however, a slightly smaller but more up-to-date facility should be operating there – a building designed not only to resist fire but also to comply with regulations not in effect 40 years ago.

As The News-Sentinel reported last December, the original building's elevation was lower than required by federal flood-control regulations adopted after its construction. In fact, after the fire, officials expressed concern that contaminated runoff from water used to fight the blaze might pollute the nearby Junk Ditch and other waterways.

At the time, Momper expressed concern that rebuilding on the site might be too costly if his company was required to raise the foundation by two feet or install a levee around the property, which would also reduce the space available for the building.

Eventually, however, Momper and various officials found common ground. “I had to move the (new) building two feet, and that's OK,” he said. “And I had to sign a waiver saying that if anything came up we would take responsibility. But we always did that anyway.”

Momper would not reveal the new facility's cost, but said it will be steel instead of masonry and will be designed to match other nearby buildings. “And it will be more functional and efficient.

About 60 people worked on Main Street before the fire, and the company continued to operate from other facilities. In fact, Momper said, employees completed 36 of the 38 jobs scheduled the Monday following the Sunday blaze.