Firefighters battled a blaze in two downtown Columbus buildings over the weekend that led to the two buildings collapsing.
According to reports from the Columbus Fire Department, firefighters were called to the 400 block of Fifth Street at about 11:50 p.m. Saturday after a passerby noticed the fire in a commercial building.
Firefighters discovered a well-involved fire at the rear of 440 Fifth Street. As firefighters prepared lines to battle the fire, a portion of the single story structure collapsed. They also found that the fire had spread to 422 Fifth Street.
Firefighters entered that building to look for occupants, and found high heat and heavy smoke. A cat fled from one office after firefighters broke into the room. But the fire was spreading quickly and conditions were deteriorating rapidly, leading firefighters to withdraw and attack the fire from outside.
Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for the fire department, explains, that firefighters were using handlines and aerial trucks to fight the fire.
That fire engine had to be removed from service after the collapse.
When the façade collapsed onto Fifth Street it narrowly missing firefighters below. No firefighters were on the ladder at the time of the building collapse.
Columbus firefighters called in for help from several agencies including Hope and Seymour for their aerial trucks. Off duty firefighters were called in and about 40 firefighters from Columbus worked at the scene for more than four hours to get the fire under control. Other Bartholomew County fire agencies provided standby service for the city of Columbus during the incident.
Power was turned off in the area by Duke Energy and Fifth Street was closed between Washington and Franklin Streets until the debris could be removed from the street.
Firefighting was complicated by the below-freezing temperatures. Realty One opened their business to provide a warming shelter and hot drinks to ice-covered firefighters. The Salvation Army also arrived to provide food and beverages to the firefighters.
Both 422 and 440 5th Street are commercial office buildings with no residential occupants. The buildings house several businesses including; The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Bailey and Wood Financial Group, Arnholt and Staggs Law Office and TD Advertising.
Three Columbus firefighters were slightly injured from falling at at the scene.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. No damage estimates are yet available.
Other agencies assisting at the scene include the Columbus Police Department, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Office, Columbus City Utilities, Center Point Energy, Bartholomew County 911 Emergency Operations Dispatch Center, Bartholomew County Emergency Management and the city of Columbus Department of Public Works.
Photos courtesy of Columbus Fire Department.