INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 5, 2016)– More than two decades after a huge fire at the Indianapolis Athletic Club took the lives of two Indianapolis firefighters, a memorial is in the works to give them the tribute they deserve.
In 1992, fire broke out at the club downtown around midnight. Back then, it was a hotel and its guests that night included 12 jurors from the Mike Tyson rape trial.
Firefighters worked to put out the flames and rescue guests. However, the intense smoke and a sudden flash over took two lives: Cpl. Ellwood “Woody” Gelenius and John Lorenzano.
IFD firefighter Johnny Baker was only a boy when it all happened, but when he joined the department he realized just how important that event was. Many changes were made in how firefighters battled fires in high-rise buildings in Indianapolis and across the country.
“I knew that it was a pretty big, a pretty big thing,” he said.
So when he was helping move his father into an Indianapolis Athletic Club apartment recently, he looked everywhere inside the building for some kind of memorial.
“There was nothing to be found,” said Baker. “I was pretty surprised and taken a back.”
He immediately got together with firefighter Chris Bauchle and others to start working on a fundraiser for a permanent memorial.
No one really seems to know why it took so long, but everyone including the families of Gelenius and Lorenzano are glad it’s finally happening.
Recruit class 79 held a nine-story climb at the IAC building, Friday, to raise $5,000 for a bronze plaque. It will be placed on the brick outside wall facing Meridian Street.
“They can see that and they can know the, you know, incredible sacrifice that those two guys made protecting our great City,” said Bauchle.
Baker said he felt honored to be a part of it.
“We need to make sure that those that die in the line of duty are held up.”
If you missed the event, but still want to donate, you can do so here.