Frustration, safety concerns after 8th fire at abandoned motel

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INDIANAPOLIS – A Sunday night fire at a vacant motel on the southwest side of Indianapolis is sparking safety concerns from nearby business owners and frustration from the Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD).

IFD tweeted about the most recent fire at the Best Inn Midwest motel Sunday night.

“Tonight, for the 8th time in 2020 #IFD Firefighters have battled multiple fires in the abandoned Best Inn Midwest bldg at 4505 S Harding St,” the IFD tweet said. “Witnesses say squatters, taking up residence in the structure, have set the fires putting firefighters at risk #EnoughIsEnough.”

TJ Thomas, who runs a mobile truck washing business, agrees that enough is enough.

“You got people need a place to live, but it’s more like drug activity,” Thomas said. “I’ve seen it come, I’ve seen it go down here.”

Thomas often sets up his mobile truck washing station near the motel’s parking lot near the State Road 37 Exit from I-465. He says the supposedly vacant building sees a lot of activity.

“When I see them coming and going, I call the police on them because I’m down here washing every day,” he said.

The Best Inn Midwest motel has been the focus of numerous health department complaints over the years. Last year, the motel was given an emergency order to vacate due to the conditions in the building.

Since that time, in addition to eight fire runs, police have responded to numerous calls about trespassing, vandalism, and drug-related activity.

Robin Singh, who helps to run a graphics shop next door, says squatters from the motel have disturbed his business on several occasions.

“We’ve had people try to break in a few times,” Singh said.  “It just looks bad for us because we’re running a graphics shop. And it’s just, the place is really dirty because of that hotel I’d say.”

Jason Horman, who is a truck driver and often stops at truck stops near the motel, was a witness to a large fire that damage the motel on January 17 this year.

“Got settled in, went across the way to the Mr. Fuel to get coffee the next morning, and the place was on fire,” Horman said.

Horman understands why people who need shelter would seek it inside the empty motel.  

“My concern would be that people that are taking advantage of the roof over their head aren’t put in a situation where the place may burn to the ground basically on top of them,” Horman said.

Despite previous efforts to board up the motel building, the front entrance and several of the ground floor rooms are wide open. Glass doors are shattered, offering easy access to the rest of the building.

IMPD officials say the Arson Unit is investigating fire incidents at the motel.

Property owner, Best Inn Midwest LLC, has a P.O. Box address listed in Issaquah, Washington and could not be reached Monday.

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