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Police and fire

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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
The blacksmith building at Historic Fort Wayne sustained heavy fire damage Tuesday. The equipment inside was lost.

Fire damages Old Fort building

Blacksmith shop can be saved, but tools destroyed

The building can be saved, but a large collection of antique tools in it are a complete loss.

Such was the outcome after an early morning fire Tuesday at the blacksmith and woodworking building at the Old Fort.

“We pretty much lost everything,” said Tom Grant, a volunteer with Historic Fort Wayne.

The Fort Wayne Fire Department responded to a report of a building on fire about 6 a.m. at the Old Fort.

When firefighters arrived, they found the former blacksmith building engulfed in flames. Firefighters fought the flames from outside and had the fire under control in about 10 minutes, according to the department.

The cause was still under investigation Tuesday evening, according to Stacey Fleming, public information officer for the fire department.

Grant and the fire department said the building will be usable once the damaged sections are removed or repaired.

“The frame itself is in as good a shape as it can be for what it went through,” Grant said.

For him, what was in the building is more of a devastating loss than the structure.

“Our blacksmith shop was probably one of a dozen in the country that had a working bellows, and it’s completely destroyed,” he said.

Much of the antique equipment lost to the blaze was donated, including a pair of two-man saws about 6 or 7 feet long.

“They got so hot, they bent and twisted like a piece of spaghetti,” Grant said. The fire claimed a lot of high-quality antique equipment, he added.

Some rafters will need to be replaced, as well as the wall that separated the blacksmith and woodworking sections of the building. Grant said the interior finish on the woodworking shop will need to be redone.

In the past couple of years, Historic Fort Wayne volunteers worked to revitalize the blacksmith shop with the addition of the woodworking area. Volunteers had stripped the roof, resheeted it and installed cedar shingles.

Grant said the building was last used May 18, casting doubt on residual embers being a cause.

Despite the damage and lack of funding for the Old Fort other than donations, Grant is optimistic about the building’s future.

“We will rebuild it. It will be as good as it was,” he said.