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Fire ravages Norwich apartment, leaves 2 in critical condition

Ally Marotti / Copy chief

Charred remains and smell of smoke lingered around a Norwich Avenue apartment from a Tuesday morning fire that left an estimated $10,000 worth of damage and two people in the hospital in critical condition.

Battalion chief Michael Fowler of the Columbus Division of Fire said they got the call at about 5:25 a.m.

“When we arrived on the scene, there was really nothing showing that there was a fire because this is a fairly new building … so it contained the fire into the apartment,” Fowler said.

Firefighters broke down the door to 144 E. Norwich Ave., apartment I, where the fire started, and rescued those inside.

They found Jessica Walker, 31, on the floor by the couch, and Chris Lennon, 34, in the bedroom, Fowler said. Their cat, however, escaped unharmed.

“They were both lifeless,” said Eddie Dovrowoski, a first-year in athletic training who lives in the apartment complex and was awoken at about 5:15 a.m., quickly got dressed and started banging on neighbors’ doors. “They pulled (the female victim) out, put her on a stretcher, and she was gone.”

Fowler said the victims were to the hospital by about 5:38 a.m. Both victims remain in critical condition at The Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University as of Tuesday evening.

Fowler could not confirm if the victims were OSU students.

“They’re not gonna be out of the hospital for a while,” Fowler said. “The female is more severely burned than the male.”

Fowler said a smoke alarm went off, but they had not determined which unit the alarm was in.

There are about 12 one-bedroom units in the apartment, and Fowler said he estimated 20-25 people to live there.

Three ladders, four engines, a rescue unit and three medics came to scene, blocking off Norwich for much of the early morning.

Dan Hromalik, a first-year on biochemistry, lives below apartment I and said he was awoken at about 5:15 a.m.

“I was kind of late, no one really pounded on my door,” he said. “(There was) a smoky smell, it was right in the living room. I heard them bust the window out.”

Hromalik took the victims’ cat to the veterinarian. The cat, who escaped with only a few burns on its fur, bolted from the apartment when firefighters broke the door down.

“It was down there when I came out and I thought it was dead because it was just laying there,” Hromalik said.

Hromalik said residents of his apartment aren’t allowed to have pets.

Phil Crawford, the owner of the apartment, said fire investigators are looking into the damage.

“We’re doing everything in our power with the fire department, and we’re just trying to get everything secured,” he said.

Crawford said none of his tenants will be displaced.

“There was no damage at all to the rest of the building,” he said.

Fowler said the cause of the fire is not yet known.

The Lantern will update the story throughout the day, as more information becomes available. 

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