Downtown building that burned now demolished

Tribune-Star file/Joseph C. Garza

Couldn’t be saved: The building at 1801 Wabash Avenue was destroyed by fire the night of Oct. 23, 2019. The building was determined to be too dangerous to enter and was demolished the next day.

An arrest has been made in an October 2019 fire at 18th Street and Wabash Avenue in Terre Haute that saw four people evacuate the building, two by jumping from a second-floor window.

Franklin L. Boger, 29, of Terre Haute was arrested Thursday and appeared in Vigo County Superior Court on Friday.

He faces charges of arson for hire resulting in injury to another person, arson with damages of at least $5,000, arson with damages of $250 up to $5,000, and insurance fraud. Bond is set $75,000, cash only.

A probable cause affidavit filed in Boger’s case indicates he had an apartment at 1801 Wabash and bought renter’s insurance two days before the fire and removed boxes of personal belongings before the fire.

He later submitted a claim for property loss caused by the fire, receiving $20,000.

Terre Haute Fire Department investigators wrote that extensive interviewing revealed discrepancies between Boger’s account of his actions on the date of the fire and the accounts of other witnesses.

The affidavit also said surveillance videos from locations Boger said he visited the evening of the fire contradicted his statements to investigators.

Investigators also allege that at one point Boger had asked another person to burn the building for insurance money.

Fire struck the two-story building at 1801 Wabash Avenue about 10 p.m. Oct. 23. The building had commercial space on the ground floor and residential space on the second floor. It was the former home of Meg’s Beach Comber, Duggan’s Conversation Bar and other establishments over the years.

Franklin Boger

Franklin Boger

Police were already on scene attempting to make sure everyone was out when fire personnel arrived, firefighters said at the time.

All four people got out, with two going out through a second-story window and one of those injuring a foot. Three of the four suffered smoke inhalation. All declined emergency medical treatment or transport.

Firefighters said the nature of the fire and the close proximity of neighboring buildings put them into a “defense mode” in which they surrounded the fire, drowned it and protected the next-door structures.

The city demolished the building the next day, saying it was in an unsafe state to enter and also might fall and damage Dave’s Body Shop and Garage to the south.