A fire that erupted Monday night on the northwest side of Columbus destroyed valuables, including Christmas presents, for a family that includes five children.
But even though Matthew Goff and his kids — ages 5 to 14 — were temporarily left homeless, multiple agencies are joining forces to provide them the best holiday season possible.
The presents were stored in a second-floor room being remodeled above an dettached garage at 4591 N. County Road 150 West. But flames from the 10 p.m. fire gutted the entire upper-floor unit.
Among those who arrived to offer assistance was Capt. Alan Sladek, who headed The Salvation Army in Columbus for seven years before being transferred to Shelbyville in July.
Story continues below gallery
As part of The Salvation Army’s mobile unit to support first-responders and victims, Sladek was able to secure two rooms for Goff and his children at a local motel, Salvation Army envoy Amy Tompkins said.
It hasn’t been determined yet how long the family will stay in temporary shelter while repairs are made at their home, Tompkins said.
Matthew Goff, 34, told investigators that he was devastated to hear that Christmas presents for his children — ages 5, 9, 11, 12 and 14 — were destroyed, Wilson said.
However, firefighters at the scene spoke to Goff about the possibility of replacing the items with the assistance of the Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund, which each year distributes presents to more than 1,000 children from families in need — and will do so again this year on the morning of Dec. 16.
In addition, The Salvation Army says it can also help replace presents, as well as continue to provide the family with emergency shelter and necessities, Tompkins said.
The Goff family has been placed into the data system for holiday assistance, said Alicia Monroe, director of 2-1-1 of South Central Indiana.
Her organization works to eliminate duplication of services from families seeking help, Monroe said.
But Monroe says it’s likely the two Columbus organizations will partner to assist the family, with the Cheer Fund helping the four Goff children 12 and younger, and The Salvation Army assisting the 14-year-old and providing clothing.
“Whatever organization helps them, the children are taken care of very well in situations like this,” Monroe said.
When firefighter and Cheer Fund board member Ben Noblitt talked with Matthew Goff on Tuesday morning, the father said he only needed help in replacing one present, Noblitt said.
“But that might change,” Noblitt said. “And if there is anyway we can help out, we will do it — especially after a disaster strikes a family like this.”
Investigators say the fire in the Cornbrook Addition appeared to originate outdoors between two adjoining properties.
Other members of the Goff family were asleep when the 14-year-old daughter awoke and saw flames from her vantage point on the second floor of their home, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.
Awoken by his daughter, Matthew Goff went outside and saw that flames were consuming a privacy fence and wooden crates located near his detached garage, Wilson said.
That’s when Goff asked his 14-year-old daughter to call 911 and he went next door to alert his neighbor, Wilson said.
Michael Jones, 62, was inside his home at 4611 N. 150 West, when Goff informed him of the fire. Jones told investigators that once he went outside, he could see a large fire between the two homes, Wilson said.
All residents from both properties — located between Indianapolis Road and U.S. 31, a short distance north of Lowell Road — were able to safely flee the fire, he said.
Jones told investigators that the heat began to melt the vinyl siding as his privacy fence burned. The flames would later spread to the soffit of Jones’ home, and then throughout the attic space, Wilson said.
At the same time, flames were extending into the second floor area above Goff’s detached garage that was being remodeled for living space, and was rapidly spreading as Columbus firefighters arrived, Wilson said.
Faced with having to attack fires on two different structures, Capt. Mike Sieverding, the incident commander, called for an additional fire engine to respond, and they were able to get both blazes under control within 30 minutes, Wilson said.
But the Goff home’s gas and electrical service meters also were damaged. A Vectren Energy crew was called to the scene to stop a gas leak that resulted from intense heat damaging the gas meter, Wilson said.
Damage to the Goff property was estimated at $40,000, Wilson said.
The Jones residence sustained heavy damages to the interior of the home, with the loss estimated at $50,000 for the structure and $15,000 for contents, Wilson said. Jones told investigators that he would be staying with family members.
Cause of the fire is considered undetermined at this time, with the investigation ongoing.
Assisting the Columbus Fire Department at the scene were the Columbus Police Department, Columbus Regional Health Emergency Medical Service, Columbus City Utilities and Duke Energy.
The Columbus Fireman’s Cheer Fund and the Salvation Army of Columbus have stepped forward to offer the Matthew Goff family assistance after presents for the family’s five children were destroyed in a Monday night fire.
Those wishing to help families in need, such as the Goffs, are asked to take a gift tag from the Salvation Army’s Angel Trees. They are located in the the Woodforest National Bank branches inside both Columbus Walmart stores, as well as in Fair Oaks Mall.
Monetary donations are most needed at this time by the Columbus Fireman’s Cheer Fund.
Check or cash contributions may be made at the United Way building, 1531 13th St., at any Columbus fire station, or online through the charity’s website at cheerfund.com.