Search For Cause A Main Focus In Aftermath Of Giant Warehouse Fire (VIDEO)

By Jeff Neumeyer

August 20, 2013 Updated Aug 20, 2013 at 5:42 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) --- Now that the flames are out at the scene of the giant warehouse fire on the eastside of Fort Wayne, fire investigators turn their attention to the pressing question of what caused the fire in the first place.

The intense heat generated by the blaze will not help the process.

There are a couple of tasks that are top priority right now at the scene.

One of those tasks involves doing something with the tremendous amount of burned debris that is now laying in piles where warehouses used to stand.

Contractors were using an excavator Tuesday to lift pieces of crumpled and charred metal, opening up pockets where the buildings collapsed on themselves.

That work is important, because it allows fire crews to completely extinguish any leftover hot spots.

The area where the fire started has been isolated, so fire investigators have the best chance at diagnosing the cause of the mess.

Staff from the Water Pollution Control Department helped firefighters steer water thrown on the fire to the appropriate drains, making sure no contaminated water hurt equipment at the sewage plant, or threatened the environment.

" It's filtered through a number of ponds over there, before it even comes back into the river, when that comes back in from there, it's like a drop of iodine, you could drink it. It's that clean with what they do out there," said Assistant Fire Chief Ron Privett.

The debris cannot be moved off site for at least 48 hours, as a precaution.

Most of the material will eventually be headed to a landfill.

The search for a cause of the fire is complicated by the fact the blaze was burning at between 1200 and 1500 hundred degrees at its most intense.

On the plus side, potentially toxic materials were more completely incinerated; reducing what hazardous stuff was lifted into the air.

But that heat also destroyed much of the evidence investigators would like to have on hand to figure out what caused the original ignition.

Pinpointing a cause won't be easy.

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