Hellean Jackson was awakened just after 3 a.m. Tuesday when emergency personnel started pounding on her door. A house directly across from her 19th Street residence was on fire.
"They kept saying, 'Open the door! Open the door!'" she said. "All I saw was red and the heat just flew in the house. I kept wondering if it was going to pop over here."
An estimated six homes in three different areas of New Castle were damaged during fires that broke out early Tuesday morning. Police interviewed three juveniles and later released them.
"It's still early in the investigation process," said New Castle Police Chief Brad Catron.
According to New Castle Assistant Fire Chief David Moore, the first fire was reported about 3:14 a.m. in the 1600 block of F Ave. Subsequent fires later broke out at 3:33 a.m. in the 1400 block of S. 19th St. and at 3:50 a.m. near 17th Street and D Avenue.
Three homes were on fire initially and subsequently exposed and damaged the other homes, Moore said.
The fire department won't speculate that arson was the cause of the blazes and said an investigation remains ongoing. Assisting in the investigation process is the Indiana State Fire Marshal's Office and the New Castle Police Department. Only one home involved was occupied, the others were vacant properties. No residents were injured, though one firefighter sustained minor injuries, Moore said. Damage among all the properties was tentatively estimated at $150,000 to $200,000.
All firefighters from the New Castle Fire Department were called on-duty. Fire departments from Dunreith, Spiceland, and Mt. Summit were summoned for mutual aid.
"It's been several years since we've had anything like this," Moore said.
Allison Jones, who lives two houses down from the 19th Street home that burned to the ground, said she has lived in the neighborhood for more than 18 years and nothing like this has ever happened.
"At first it sounded like people were moving stuff," she said. "There was a really loud boom, probably the windows blowing out."
Jackson, who has lived on both sides of a 19th street duplex over the last 4.5 years, said the incident was somewhat concerning.
"It don't seem like this neighborhood should be so rowdy," she said. "Everyone is so friendly."
Initially, firefighters struggled with low water pressure, but minutes later the issue was resolved.
New Castle Mayor Greg York said the water tower on I Avenue may have gone dry, but the city water department quickly re-supplied it without a problem.
"God has blessed New Castle with a lot of good water," York said, commending emergency workers who helped get everything under control. "We are real proud of the fire department and the police department. They were very professional and no residents were hurt."
York also said there was no reason for anyone in the area to be afraid or alarmed. The city will work to figure out who owns the blighted homes that were damaged or destroyed and go from there to begin the clean-up process.