Investigation still open on Oaklawn Inn Annex fire

Investigation still open on Oaklawn Inn Annex fire

DANVILLE — Danville public safety officials said they're ready to rule that the cause of a fire that destroyed the Oaklawn Inn Annex on June 2 was accidental.

However, they said the investigation will remain open until they receive more information from owner Roger Patel, namely whether the property was insured.

"We're still waiting," Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said, adding he wants to see the site cleaned up as soon as possible.

"Right now, it's definitely a safety hazard," Thomason said of the large debris pile on the corner of East Main Street and National Avenue. "We've had officers respond there because people are trespassing to try to get to get to salable items so we want it removed. If people are caught trespassing at a fire scene, they are subject to arrest."

The Oaklawn Inn at 1824 E. Main St. houses people on a long-term and short-term basis, as did the two-story annex that sat directly across Main Street.

No one was injured in the fire, which broke out in the 60-year-old wood-frame structure around 11 p.m. June 2 and took hours to put out. A backhoe was used to tear down walls so that firefighters could get to hot spots. Once extinguished, officials strung yellow "caution" tape around the rubble, at least 20 feet high in some areas. The site has remained that way since then.

Inn staff spray-painted signs warning, "No trespassing," and "Keep out! Private property," all around the site. Patel's wife, Jay Patel, said that's because they have spied people sneaking onto the site and scavenging for scrap materials to sell at local recycling centers.

"We have had to call the police to run them off," she said.

Roger Patel has declined interviews with The News-Gazette since the fire. However, his wife, assured that her husband is planning a clean up.

When asked whether the property is insured, she said, "We are working on it."

She also said her husband has talked to contractors about hauling away the debris.

"I cannot tell you when it will be done," she said, "But I can tell you he is working on it. They are quoting him a price" on the work.

She added there are no plans to rebuild.

Meanwhile, the manager of the Danville Bar & Grill, directly east of the annex, is trying to raise money to help the fire victims, who lost all of their personal belongings.

People can donate to the Oaklawn Inn Annex Fire Victims' Fund at any First Financial Bank of Terre Haute location.

"I'm thankful that the Lord got everyone out safe," said Dannie Carmean, manager of the restaurant, which also is owned by Patel. "I'm hopeful that the community will rise up and help support the families."

Carmean said the account will remain open until at least the end of July. Then he will divide the money among the occupants, including some carnival workers who were in Danville for the Jaycees Springfest carnival in Tilton and have since left town.