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Westville apartment fire destroys units, displaces families

Jon L. Hendricks, The Times

Firefighters work at the University Village Apartments near Westville after a large fire collapsed the roof of a building.


Apartment fire in Westville

Jon L. Hendricks | The Times

No one was injured in an early morning fire at the University Village Apartments in Westville.

Apartment fire in Westville

A Tuesday morning fire quickly engulfed an apartment building at University Village across from Purdue North Central near Westville.


All 16 units in the wood-frame structure with a partial brick exterior were either destroyed or damaged. No injuries were reported.

According to firefighters, a tenant in a lower level apartment where the fire started woke up to a smoke detector going off about 6:30 a.m.

Others were alerted and began pounding on doors in the two-story building.

"They were extremely lucky. There could have been fatalities," Cass-Clinton firefighter John Sullivan said.

Westville Fire Chief Sean Jacks said the fire quickly moved into the roof, where it then spread even faster.

"It transgressed into the entire roof of the structure," Jacks said.

There were several open spots on the charred roof with rafters exposed where the flames burned through.

Smoke could be seen from Michigan City, about five miles to the north of PNC.

Jacks said several aerial trucks from Westville, Michigan City and Coolspring Township were brought in to help battle the blaze. He said all of the residents evacuated prior to the arrival of firefighters, who went inside the units to make sure everyone was accounted for.

Among the displaced residents were James Coleman, 39, and his wife, Andrea Coleman, 34.

James Coleman said he woke up to pounding on his upstairs apartment door but thought it was kids playing a joke.

He then spotted a little smoke.

"We thought it would be put out in a matter of minutes, but it kept going. It was horrible," Coleman said.

"It's a disaster. You've got to feel sorry for everybody and their families and their kids. It's just a disaster," Andrea Coleman said.

"No one got hurt. That's the good thing about it."

Smoke coming out of the roof drew the attention of Carrie Ponce, who lives in an apartment about 100 yards from building hit by fire.

"It was like a huge cloud. You could smell it over in my apartment building," Ponce said.

Jacks said the cause of the fire was not known an investigation is under way.

He estimated the loss in the several hundreds of thousands of dollars.

How to help

The Purdue North Central Office of Student Activities and the Center for Service Learning and Leadership are coordinating a clothing, household items and furniture drive to support families affected by the University Village fire.

A list of needed items will be available Wednesday at the Center for Service Learning and Leadership website at

Items in immediate need are toiletries/personal hygiene items and there is a need for diapers for a 1-year-old and a 1-month-old.

Until a list of clothing items needed is available, individuals are strongly encouraged to donate gift cards that can be redeemed at local merchants for families to redeem for necessary items.

Once the list of items needed by the families is available, items can be dropped off in marked boxes at the PNC Westville campus at the Library-Student-Faculty Building dock, and in the Dean of Student's Office (LSF Building room 103), Technology Building North Entrance and the Bursar's Office in Schwarz Hall.

Individuals wanting to donate furniture or large household items should contact either Carol Connelly at (219) 785-5267 or or the Red Cross of LaPorte County at (219) 874-4247 to make arrangements for pickup.