Discarded cigarette ignites fire at 8-unit apartment building on city’s northeast side

A discarded cigarette accidentally started a chain of events that caused a fire and $750,000 in damage to an eight-unit building at Fox Pointe Apartments, a Columbus Fire Department spokesman said.

The large fire Monday night originated on the patio area outside apartment 4707 in Building No. 6, located along Creekside Way. A tenant of the apartment discarded a cigarette into a homemade plastic receptacle for smoking materials, a fire department investigation has found.

The cigarette burned through the receptacle, which was located outside the home and against the apartment wall, and ignited the building’s exterior vinyl siding, said Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for Columbus Fire Department. The fire traveled up to the soffit and then into the attic and spread, he said.

First responders received a call about the fire at the apartment complex on the city’s northeast side about 7:30 p.m. Firefighters encountered heavy fire upon arrival, with flames visible through the exterior of the building, Wilson said. Smoke was visible from several miles away, he said. Six fire department units were needed to battle the blaze, which was brought under control by about 9 p.m.

Fourteen residents occupied the eight apartments, but no occupants or firefighters were injured, Wilson said.

Fox Pointe, which opened in 1993 at 4740 Fox Trail Lane, does not prohibit smoking in its apartment units and doesn’t have a policy about receptacles for smoking materials, property manager Michael Henderson said.

Over the years the greater concern has been people discarding cigarette butts on the ground and catching mulch on fire — which has happened, he said. The thought that a receptacle intended to curb cigarette butts being thrown on the ground being the culprit seemed a bit ironic, Henderson said.

“Who’d think that somebody would build something that would cause more damage?” Henderson said.

Once he gets all the reports from the police and fire departments, Henderson said he would meet with the owner of the apartment complex and discuss if rules about smoking need to be implemented. Next steps about the damaged building also would be discussed, but Henderson indicated it’s unlikely any of the building would be salvageable.

Six of the eight units were described as sustaining heavy structural damage, while the remaining two units had smoke and water damage, Wilson said.

“It looks to be a total loss,” Henderson said.

In the meantime, Henderson said protective fencing is being erected around the building. Tenants would be allowed in to search for salvageable items only when the fire department indicates it’s safe to do so, he said.

The Salvation Army is providing the displaced tenants with short-term housing in hotels and helping secure clothing in their sizes.

Long-term, Henderson said the displaced tenants would have the option to move into another Fox Pointe unit, or an apartment at Charleston Square — another apartment complex that he manages that is 2½ blocks away at 2410 Charleston Place.

Click here for a previous story on the Fox Pointe Apartments fire. http://www.therepublic.com/2016/08/09/fire_heavily_damages_8unit_apartment_building_on_northeast_side_of_city/

How to help

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 office, 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, 7½, 9, 9½, 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, 10½, 13

For more information: 812-372-7118

Assessing the damage

Here are the numbers of the apartment units at Fox Pointe damaged by a fire Monday night, and the type of damage they sustained:

4707: heavy fire damage

4715: heavy fire damage

4723: heavy fire damage

4731: fire, smoke and water damage, but roof fully intact

4703: heavy fire damage

4711: heavy fire damage

4719: heavy fire damage

4727: fire, smoke and water damage but roof fully intact

Source: Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department

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

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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.