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Fire at Wayside Christian Mission warehouse halts upgrades to Louisville homeless shelters

A fire destoys a Smoketown warehouse owned by Wayside Christian Mission on June 12, 2022.
Roberto Roldan
A fire destoys a Smoketown warehouse owned by Wayside Christian Mission on June 12, 2022.

A fire at a warehouse in Smoketown will prevent Wayside Christian Mission from moving forward with planned upgrades to two of Louisville’s few homeless shelters.

The fire, which broke out around 4 p.m. Monday, destroyed furniture, carpeting and other donations stored at the 506 East Caldwell St. warehouse, according to Wayside’s chief operating officer Nina Moseley.

The fire will not affect day-to-day operations at Wayside’s two shelters, which provide beds for about 600 people each night, Moseley said.

But Wayside planned to use the furnishings to upgrade their shelters, Moseley added – plans that are now “on hold until another opportunity arises.”

“Until we’re able to get more storage space somewhere, we’re not going to be able to serve our clients as well by having things on hand when we need to upgrade an area, or we need to make things better,” Moseley said, referring to items like carpeting, ramps and floor lamps. “In that way, it will impact our operations.”

Moseley said the 60,000-square-foot warehouse was about 50% full at the time of the fire. Wayside’s clients’ personal belongings were not among the items stored at the facility, she said. No personnel or employees from the organization were in the warehouse when the fire broke out.

Major Bobby Cooper, battalion chief at the Louisville Fire Department, said the department’s arson investigation bureau is looking into the cause of the fire. As of now, it remains unclear how it started.

“It’s a lengthy and ongoing investigation, especially when you have a building of this size,” Cooper said.

Cooper said the fire was a “total loss,” meaning the entire structure was destroyed. The warehouse collapsed at 4:55 p.m., he said – 21 minutes after firefighters were evacuated from inside. One firefighter was transferred to the University of Louisville hospital for a minor hand injury, Cooper said. No other injuries have been reported.

Wayside is one of just four emergency homeless shelters in Louisville – all of which have been nearly at capacity every night in recent weeks. About half of Wayside’s shelter space is used for emergency beds, while the other half is dedicated to long-term programs including transitional housing and housing for veterans.

Moseley said she’s not sure if Wayside will be able to rebuild on the existing warehouse site, which the organization purchased eight years ago.

“This just happened last night. Today, we’re trying to process everything,” Moseley said. “We’re kind of still in shock.”