An electrical fire torched the attic of a house at 295 E. 17th Ave. Monday afternoon, leaving 10 students without housing.
Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Jerry Birkhimer estimated the total damage to be $10,000. No one was injured.
“We had around 45 firefighters on the scene and we had it contained within the first five or 10 minutes,” Birkhimer said. Campus fires “are not very frequent but when they do happen there is usually a lot of damage.
“It was daytime. We got here early, attacked the fire early and pretty much saved the residents’ lives except for the damage in the attic.”
Although the three-story house was still intact, Birkhimer said the house could be uninhabitable for as long as a month.
“They need to talk to the landlord about finding additional housing because it could be three weeks before this is ready to be inhabited again.” Birkhimer said. “Maybe longer than, depending on what the maintenance people find, whether the entire roof needs [to be replaced] and how much electrical damage [there is].”
Evelyn Curry, a resident of the house and third-year in journalism, said the fire department informed her that it’s possible the house could be permanently ruined.
“It sucks man. My house could be gone,” said Curry, who was in the house when the fire began.
Curry said she woke up at 11:30 a.m. to a bang at the door and a police officer yelling to get out of the house.
“You do not have time to react. Someone tells you that your house is on fire you are just thinking ‘You have to be lying to me,'” Curry said. “You just don’t expect that to happen to your house.”
Curry said the police officer was in the Exxon Mobil gas station next door and smelled smoke from inside.
“There was so much smoke. It eventually got to the point where all of 17th [Avenue] was covered in smoke,”
Curry and Lauren Esposito, a third-year pre-medical student, were outside the house when the fire department arrived at 11:46 a.m.
Firefighters were on the scene for more than three hours.
Birkhimer said Department of Fire Investigator Greg Haggit determined the fire resulted from the wiring in a second-floor bathroom ceiling fan, and that it ripped its way to the third-floor attic.
The landlord, George Kanellopoulos, lives in Naples, Fla., one of the residents said.
The residents said their landlord assured them that maintenance workers are doing their job and investigating the damage.
“Hopefully they know what they are doing,” said Eric Berrina, resident and Columbus State student.
The residents were able to re-enter the house to get their personal belongings after the fire was contained.
“The plan right now for me and my friends is to stay with friends and boyfriends, wait it out and see what happens,” Curry said.
Birkhimer said the housing situation will have to be worked out with Kanellopoulos.
Curry said Kanellopoulos is not expected to return to Columbus any time soon.
“We will just have to wait to see what the maintenance men say and wait on insurance,” she said.