March 16, 2017 10:14:59 AM
Isabelle Altman - firstname.lastname@example.org
Three families lost their homes in a fire that burned units in an East Columbus apartment complex on Wednesday.
First responders from Columbus Fire and Rescue arrived at Columbus Colony apartments on Bishop Circle at about 2:30 p.m., CFR Public Information Officer Anthony Colom said. The fire broke out in one apartment and had spread to two others by the time firefighters put it out.
No one was in any of the three apartments at the time, Colom said, and no one was injured in the fire.
Residents of those and surrounding apartments stood outside Wednesday afternoon, watching firefighters and talking with first responders at the scene.
"I had just left," resident Betty Farmer said as she sat in a Columbus Police Department cruiser waiting to speak to someone from Red Cross right after the fire. "My son called and told me (our apartment) was on fire."
She had no idea how bad the damage was or what all she had lost, she said, but she was glad she and her family weren't home. She added she was also worried about her neighbor, Shameka Gandy, who is in a wheelchair. Gandy said she lost her wheelchair as well as her 15-year-old daughter's clothes.
Two of the apartments had significant flame damage and the last had smoke damage. The fire also burned a hole in the roof over two of the apartments. None of the three apartments damaged are livable.
None of the residents could go into the homes to see what they could salvage until more than an hour after the fire had started. Linda Lonzo, a volunteer with the Red Cross in Columbus, said the families salvaged little, if anything.
"All of these families, they did not have a lot (that could be saved)," Lonzo said. "So they're going to need help."
Lonzo said the Red Cross set the families up with money to pay for temporary living arrangements and referrals to local thrift stores, like the Salvation Army and Palmer Home, so they could replace clothing.
CFR is still trying to determine the cause of the fire, but Colom said it may be several days before investigators would know anything. Investigators also must determine where the fire started before it spread to all three apartments.
The Secretary of State's website lists Malcolm B. Howard as a general partner and Randolph Lipscomb as the registered agent for Columbus Colony, Ltd., the owner of the apartment complex. Calls to both were unreturned by press time, and attempts to speak with a manager on site were also unsuccessful.
City building inspector Kenny Wiegel confirmed to The Dispatch the Columbus Colony had not been cited for any code violations.