Garage fire damages rental home

Children playing with matches appears to be the cause of a garage fire that displaced a five-member family in southeast Columbus.

Two members of the family who were inside at the time escaped uninjured from the one-story brick home at 242 Pence St.at about 3:39 p.m. Monday.

A family cat was rescued unharmed by firefighters, but two vehicles — a 2000 Chevrolet Cavalier and a 900cc Honda motorcycle — were inside the burning garage, firefighters said. 

Damages for structure and contents are estimated at $50,000 to the home owned by landlord Shirleen Shaw, according to a news release from the Columbus Fire Department.  It was undetermined if working smoke alarms were located in the home, the release stated.

Brenda Finley, 59, and her 8-year-old granddaughter, Alison Hendershot, were watching television in the home’s living room when a neighbor knocked on their door to tell them smoke was pouring out of the garage, Finley said.

Finley, who is recovering from an ankle injury, left the house with her granddaughter while the neighbor called 911, Finley said.

A witness told police she saw two children playing in the area of the garage, where bails of straw were stored, the release stated.  

After the children were found, they admitted they were using matches near the straw, the release stated.  However, police concluded the cause of the fire was accidental and there was no criminal intent, the release stated.  

Nevertheless, members of a program designed to help identify risks of future firesetting and provide educational intervention will provide follow-up services to the parties involved, the release stated.

The displaced family receiving shelter services from the Red Cross also include Finley’s husband, Jeff Finley, her adult son and Alison’s father, William Hendershot, and Brenda Finley’s second grandchild, Angel Hendershot.

However, most of the fire was kept to the garage area, and the interior sustained only minor smoke damage, the release stated.  

Author photo
Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.