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 Young Vandals Foul Hoosier Gym; Kids Sneak In and Activate Fire Extinguishers

April 9, 2008 - There was lots of smoke, but no fire last Thursday morning after vandals activated two large fire extinguishers in the Hoosier Gym.

Fire alarms brought Knightstown volunteer fire fighters to the gym where they saw what they thought was white smoke pouring from the gym's windows and doors. Upon closer inspection, however, firemen found the "smoke" was actually an enormous cloud of fine, white ammonium phosphate powder released when mischievous youngsters discharged two 20-pound dry powder extinguishers inside the gym.

"It took my breath when I came in here," said Bill Gorman, vice president of the Hoosier Gym board of directors. "You couldn't see five feet in front of you the air was so thick with that powder."

Knightstown Police Chief Danny Baker said when he arrived the smoke-like powder was pouring out the gym's windows and doors, leading him to believe the building was on fire. While he and fire fighters were relieved to find no flames, they were stunned at the mess left behind.

"It's a real shame," Baker said, referring to the gym's coating of white powder which stood an inch deep in some places.

Baker said three juveniles admitted causing the damage, clean-up costs for which are estimated at $10,000-$15,000. Baker met with the children's parents and later forwarded the criminal mischief charges on to the Henry County Juvenile justice department in New Castle.

Cleaning got underway Thursday evening at 6 p.m. as 13 local volunteers and at least 10 workers from Hays & Son Restoration Services arrived and went to work. Starting at the highest point they could reach to bottom, pushing the fine white powder toward the floor. There, workers used high-powered vacuums and wet mops to remove the substance.

The vandalism couldn't have happened at a worse time with the Knightstown Neighborhood Crime Watch (KNCW) gearing up for its big kick-off two days later on Saturday. But, the gym was, for the most part, clean and ready to go on Friday, when KNCW officials began setting up for the kick-off event.

Although the gym officials scheduled floor refinishing months ago. That work is set to take place in May. However, floor refinishing will be pushed back one week so workers can thoroughly clean ductwork.

Although it initially appeared that no real damage was done to the gym floor, officials are now unsure about that. According to Gorman, the powder is removing the floor's finish and leaving a dusty residue.

"Our insurance may cover that (damage)," he said. "It does look like there's damage to the floor. I don't think it's extensive. I think it's something that can be repaired."


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