Columbus firefighters battled blazes on consecutive mornings at local residences, the first at an apartment where two brothers escaped safely and the other at an unoccupied house.

Columbus Fire Department received a call at 10:39 a.m. Sunday about a fire in an upstairs apartment at 1605 Cottage Ave., and arrived three minutes later.

The fire had begun to melt the vinyl siding and the rubber membrane roof on which the patio deck was built, and thick black smoke was visible from the street when firefighters arrived, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

Firefighters entered the apartment through a ground-level doorway and climbed a flight of stairs to reach the apartment, where they found light smoke inside, Wilson said. They accessed the rooftop patio through a doorway inside the apartment and found heavy smoke and fire on the exterior wall of the apartment, and fire on the wood deck, Wilson said.

Story continues below gallery

About 50 percent of the roughly 12-foot by 8-foot wooden patio structure was destroyed. The interior of the apartment sustained minor smoke and water damage, Wilson said.

Property owner John Counceller told investigators that he was en route to a nearby property when he noticed smoke coming from the roof at the apartment and pulled his car over to alert his tenants and call 911, Wilson said.

Counceller told investigators the apartment is occupied by a family of three: brothers Seth Hundley, 20, and Tanner Hundley, 27, and their mother Faith Hundley, Wilson said. Their mother was at work at the time of the fire.

The brothers told fire investigators that they were sleeping when they heard the sound of banging on their apartment door, which turned out to be Columbus Police Department officers, the building owner and neighbors, Wilson said.

Fire investigators determined that the accidental fire was caused by a cigarette discarded near combustible materials. Damages to the apartment are estimated at $25,000, Wilson said.

Smoke alarms were found inside the property, but the brothers stated that the smoke alarms did not sound during the incident. Firefighter also said they did not hear smoke alarms. Wilson said. Investigators manually tested the alarms and found that they worked, but also determined that the smoke alarms closest to the fire were more than 10 years old, he added.

The second fire occurred at 1528 Union St. Firefighters received a call about the fire at 5:04 a.m. Monday after a passerby saw smoke coming from the home.

Firefighters witnessed smoke coming out of windows when they arrived. They went through the front door and entered the home to search for occupants, Wilson said. A bathroom adjacent to the kitchen was engulfed in flames, but all flames were extinguished within minutes.

The search revealed the home to be vacant. Columbus Fire Department investigators learned that the home has been vacant for two weeks while the residence is being treated for bedbugs, and the tenants have been staying in a hotel and were not at the house at the time of the fire, Wilson said.

Investigators determined that the fire originated in the bathroom and extended into the home’s kitchen, but the cause remains undetermined. Damages are estimated at $40,000, Wilson said.

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