BEECH GROVE, Ind. — A fire at an Amtrak maintenance facility in Beech Grove early Sunday morning is considered suspicious, investigators confirmed.
Around 12:30 a.m., the Indianapolis Fire Department and Beech Grove Fire Department were called to Garstang Street, where two buildings used to house paint and cleaning supplies for the rail cars were engulfed.
According to fire officials, crews could not find a working hydrant inside the facility and were unable to get water on the fire for approximately 25 minutes. Additional units with IFD, including a tanker, were called in to help provide a supply of water.
In the process of the fire operation, officials said one building fully collapsed and the other partially collapsed, with a full collapse imminent. Both have since been demolished due to the damage sustained.
Amtrak confirmed to CBS4 on Thursday that damage to the buildings and their contents was determined to be more than $650,000. A spokesperson said no injuries, rail equipment damage or impact on facility production were reported.
James Pierce, operations chief for the Beech Grove Fire Dept. said investigators immediately began looking into the circumstances surrounding the fire and investigating any potential causes.
“We determined it was two buildings on fire that were separated. They weren’t connected,” said Pierce. “We’re very confident that this was an intentionally set fire. Everything that we’ve looked at leads us in that direction.”
According to Pierce, they have determined there were two points of origin for the fire, with both ‘completely separated.’ He said, “also the amount of fire spread led us to believe this was an intentional act.”
Pierce could not comment on any additional specifics of the investigation but said there are several agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Amtrak Police, and detectives from Chicago and New York involved in the investigation.
Early on in the week, Mayor Dennis Buckley had called upon federal investigators to help, citing several reasons for his request.
In a letter to several elected leaders including Congressman Andre Carson, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and several ranking members of the transportation committee in Washington, Buckley said, “As a strong advocate of rail and the Amtrak facility, I’m asking that the two buildings be rebuilt and better notification and other fire protection devices be installed.”
He also noted, “A local police officer on routine patrol spotted smoke and called it in.”
Buckley said since this facility was the site of a major fire and it is owned by the federal government, he is requesting federal law enforcement be summoned for the purpose of an investigation.
“I’m troubled that someone came onto the property and started a fire and other large structures could be subject to the same fate,” he wrote.
On Thursday, Buckley told CBS4, “We already know that it was set and we already know where it was set at. We just don’t know who did it, and we would like to find that out.”
In addition to several agencies that the fire department said are involved in the investigation, Buckley shared, “I’ve also learned that the Amtrak internal affairs division is also looking into this fire as well.”
He said the city has no tolerance for this type of behavior or crime.
“These acts are not normal and it just leads me to believe that somebody is mad enough to go on to a federal property that is very secure in the middle of the night and set two buildings on fire. What else are they gonna do?”
“As far as I’m concerned it’s a domestic terrorism act and should be treated as such,” said Buckley.
He said he is glad no firefighters or civilians were injured in the response and wants whoever did this to be held accountable for their actions.
“Part of our job is to take risks, to save lives and property. That’s what we do, what we wanna do,” said Pierce, “but when that risk is because of somebody’s intentional act that we could potentially be seriously injured or killed in a fire like this, really raises the stakes for us.”
He said, “All fires are dangerous, all fires we want to make sure that everybody walks away from but knowing that this was intentionally set makes it that much worse.”
Pierce said investigators are actively looking into this and ask if anyone has information to call Beech Grove Fire at 317-808-5603. You can also anonymously submit tips to Crime Stoppers by calling 317-262-8477 (TIPS).
“We really want to catch this person because not only did it cause a high dollar loss to the Amtrak facility, but it also is an intentionally set fire that put people at risk,” said Pierce.