Breaking news: Officials determine cause of apartment fire. Check out video and photos. How to help families.

Update: 10:50 a.m. Tuesday

A discarded cigarette accidentally started a chain of events that caused a fire and significant damage to an eight-unit building at Fox Pointe apartments, a Columbus Fire Department spokesman said.

A large fire ignited in building No. 6, in the 4700 block of Creekside Way, at about 7:30 p.m. Monday at the apartment complex on the city’s northeast side when the cigarette burned through a homemade plastic receptacle for discarded smoking materials, located outside the home and against the apartment wall.

Once the fire burned through the receptacle, it ignited the vinyl siding, traveled up to the soffit and then into the attic and spread, said Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for Columbus Fire Department.

Read the news release from the Columbus Fire Department:

The cause of the Fox Pointe Commons apartment fire has been ruled accidental due to discarded smoking materials. A fire investigation team comprised of both Columbus Police and Fire Department investigators interviewed witnesses and tenants following a fire that ripped through an eight unit apartment building last night in the 4700 block of Creekside Way, displacing 14 tenants.

Investigators determined the origin of fire was an outdoor patio area at 4707 Creekside Way. An interview of the tenants who reside at that address revealed that a cigarette was discarded into a homemade smoking receptacle that was situated next to the exterior wall of the apartment.

It is unclear how the occupants of this apartment were alerted to the fire. A male occupant of 4707 Creekside Way told investigators that when he say the fire, flames were visible from the ground to the soffit area on the exterior of the wall of the apartment. Investigators have determined that the plastic smoking receptacle ignited causing flames to travel up the apartment’s vinyl siding. As the flames intensified, fire traveled up the exterior wall until reaching the soffit. As the soffit was breached, flames entered the attic space and quickly traveled to the adjacent apartments.

Firefighters found heavy fire upon their arrival and applied water to visible flames on the exterior of the apartment buildings southwest corner. As addition fire units arrived on the scene search crews entered the adjacent apartments looking for tenants. All occupants had safely exited the apartment building prior to the arrival of firefighters.

Officers with the Columbus Police Department aided in the search efforts and provided firefighters with tenant accountability information.  All eight apartments were damaged as a result of the fire. Firefighters reported the fire under control at approximately 9:00 p.m. Firefighters remained on the scene for several hours for overhaul and salvage operations. Fire command was terminated at approximately 12:00 a.m.

Agencies that assisted at the scene include the Columbus Police Department, Columbus Regional Health EMS, Duke Energy, Columbus City Utilities, Vectren Energy and the Salvation Army.

How to help families

The Salvation Army in Columbus is collecting donations of men’s and women’s shirts, pants and shoes for the 14 occupants of the Fox Pointe apartment building that caught fire Monday night. Donations can be dropped off at the local Salvation Army location, 2525 Illinois St.

Sizes needed:

  • Women’s shirts: small, medium, large, extra large, 3XL
  • Women’s pants: 6, 12, 16, 22/24
  • Women’s shoes: 7, 7 1/2, 9, 9 1/2, 10
  • Men’s shirts: medium, large, extra large, 3XL
  • Men’s pants: 36×30, 46×30, 44×32, 40×30, 30×32
  • Men’s shoes: 9, 10 1/2, 13

For more information: 812-372-7118

Story: Fast-moving fire damages apartments Monday

An assistant property manager at Fox Pointe Apartments on the city’s northeast side hastily went door-to-door warning tenants to flee a fast-spreading fire, while her own apartment was among those that burned and was significantly damaged by the blaze.

Anna Long helped all of the other residents — 14, including herself — escape the fire that broke out in the complex’s Building 6, located in the 4700 block of Creekside Way.

Firefighters were called at 7:30 p.m. Monday, when Long said she saw the flames around the outside of the building engulf the vinyl siding and began warning fellow residents.

Flames were shooting through the roof when firefighters from Columbus arrived, said Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for the Columbus Fire Department.

Witnesses at the scene described the damage as massive, with the roof burned through several of the living units, leaving them uninhabitable.

Four of the damaged apartments are two-bedroom, multi-level lofts; the remaining four are two-bedroom ranch-style homes, Wilson said.

Four of the eight units sustained heavy damage, while the remaining four 4 units had primarily water and smoke damage, Wilson said.

Dan Kendall, one of the tenants whose apartment burned, said he and his mother Dorothy moved into their unit about three months ago, having transferred from a smaller one-bedroom apartment in a different building in the Fox Pointe complex.

Kendall said his mother was doing the dishes and he was about to take a shower when Long knocked on the door and notified them of the fire, allowing them to escape unharmed.

An hour into fighting the fire, Wilson said firefighters were still unsure of the cause.

A Fox Pointe resident who lives in a neighboring building, Deborah K. Long, also was among the first to see the fire break out.

Deborah Long, who is not related to Anna Long, said she was outside with her Yorkie dog, which is their evening routine, when she saw a outdoor grill going.

“I looked around and the next thing I saw was the vinyl (siding) on fire,” Deborah Long said. “I ran with my dog on the leash to let them (occupants) know. By the time I got there, some guy got out and was saying, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ It just went up in flames.”

Columbus Police Department officers reported all occupants were safely accounted for, said Wilson, who added there were no injuries to residents or firefighters.

Wilson said the fire was under control at 9 p.m., with the fire department moving into an overhaul operation. The fire investigation is ongoing, Wilson said late Monday.

The Salvation Army was on the scene providing victim and firefighter assistance, Wilson said.

The complex, located just north of 25th Street between Taylor Road and North Talley Road, was built in 1993, said Michael Henderson, property manager for Fox Pointe, who arrived about the same time firefighters did.

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Kirk Johannesen is assistant managing editor of The Republic. He can be reached at johannesen@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5639.