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Duplex blaze causes severe damage

45 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2011.

Restoration crews are at work less than 24 hours after fire gutted a north campus duplex in the 90 block of West Northwood Avenue early Monday morning.

The plywood now covering the windows sets a sharp contrast to the charred siding and melted gutters left by the blaze. Remains of police line tape flap in the breeze, becoming tangled on the surrounding trees and parked cars.

The fire broke out just after midnight in the front of the house, causing minor damage to one side of the property and severe damage to the other.

More than a dozen emergency response vehicles flooded Northwood Avenue between Neil Avenue and High Street, shutting down any through traffic.

A space heater is thought to have started the blaze, said Mark Devine, Columbus Fire Battalion 3, Unit 2 chief.

Tenants displaced by the fire kept warm at 83 W. Northwood Ave., two doors down from the fire. That residence became an essential location during the blaze, serving as a place where American Red Cross volunteers could tend to the victims, Columbus Division of Fire investigators could take statements and the tenants themselves could stay in the early hours of the morning.

Scott Anders, a third-year in physical education and resident of 83 W. Northwood Ave., was first in the house of eight residents to notice the fire engines coming down the street. He saw firefighters running toward the house as the tenants of the house got away.

Anders, along with Brandon Bowditch and Kyle Riesenberg, a fourth-year in aeronautical engineering and fourth-year in political science, respectively, invited the displaced tenants to come inside and keep warm. After everyone in the duplex was accounted for, the tenants began making alternative living arrangements.

“We just hung out and tried not to get in the way,” Anders said.

Soon after the tenants came inside, others joined, including the owner of the house, Red Cross volunteers, friends of the tenants, members of the OSU Advocacy Center and CDF investigators.

“God love these guys in 83 (Northwood Ave.), because the other alternative would have been sitting in a small vehicle, or standing outside in 12-degree weather,” said Jeff Rawlins, Disaster Response Team leader on the scene.

The owner of the property was listed on the Franklin County Auditors website as Pavey Family LLC. A representative was unavailable for comment. The Lantern profiled Charles Pavey in 2001 as an outstanding landlord with a smaller number of properties.

Anders described the intensity of the fire and the work CDF did to contain both the fire and the onlookers that had collected on the street.

“The firefighters got the caution tape up pretty quickly,” Anders said, “but nobody was getting too close anyway.”

Bowditch described the heat generated by the fire when firefighters first arrived.

“I could feel the heat from our front yard, which is like 75-100 feet away; I thought the whole thing was going down,” Bowditch said. “There was a fireball coming out of their front window.”

The fire melted all the snow within about 20 feet.

The tenants displaced by the fire met with American Red Cross Disaster Response volunteers, who provided them with housing until they can find an alternative, as well as a stipend for food and clothing.

The names of the tenants were unavailable.

Rawlins described the goal of his team’s work.

“My goal is to try to take the ‘stuff’ out of your mind, so you can focus on you and your friends,” Rawlins said.

The American Red Cross Disaster Response team was already on a call for a kitchen fire on the east side of Columbus when the call for the Northwood Avenue fire came in. Rawlins said the team is comprised entirely of volunteers and responds to about 400 fires annually in Franklin County.

The Community Relations office of the Columbus Division of Fire did not immediately return phone calls requesting comment. An official cause of the fire is not yet known.

Andy Gottesman contributed to this story


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