Investigators don't find cause for northern Indiana blaze during which firefighter was killed

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NEW CARLISLE, Indiana — Investigators said Thursday that a northern Indiana business where a volunteer firefighter was killed in a roof collapse was too badly damaged for them to determine what caused the blaze.

The state fire marshal's office said the Aug. 6 fire at K-Fex Inc. in New Carlisle has been ruled as undetermined and that accidental causes couldn't be ruled out.

Firefighters were working to set up a hose inside the trucking and excavating business when the roof collapsed, killing 41-year-old Jamie Middlebrook, who was assistant chief of the New Carlisle Volunteer Fire Department. Firefighter Matt O'Donnell suffered a broken leg

"At this time we do not suspect any foul play, but there is not enough evidence to list the fire as accidental," State Fire Marshal Jim Greeson said. "A ruling of undetermined is not unusual. While we would have liked to provide a more definitive final determination, the evidence has led us to this point."

The fire destroyed the metal barn-like structure that housed the business near the 2,000-person town of New Carlisle, about 15 miles west of South Bend.

Investigators found that flames spread into the building's attic, which allowed the fire to burn undetected in the space above the firefighters before the wooden trusses gave way, according to the fire marshal's office.

An electrical engineer wasn't able to rule out the building's electrical conductors as possible ignition sources, the fire marshal's office said.

Middlebrook was fatally crushed by the falling debris and his body was recovered about three hours after the roof collapsed, according to the LaPorte County coroner. Hundreds of firefighters and other mourners attended his funeral last week.

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