A fire that sent acrid smoke floating over Columbus, visible for miles, destroyed a local carpet store and a fitness center and disrupted travel near downtown for hours.

Clinton Mann, who owns most of the four buildings in the complex at the intersection of 10th Street and Michigan Avenue on the city’s near north side, including Carpet Mania, described himself as in shock as he watched the carpet store’s roof collapse Wednesday afternoon.

The 20,000-square-foot building was engulfed in flames and smoke as firefighters worked to contain the fire after being called to the scene at 2:25 p.m. Mann said Carpet Mania had been in business for 22 years, including operating at 1428 10th Street since 1999.

When Columbus firefighters arrived, they saw flames pushing out of the door and windows of the brick structure. The fire broke through the roof just before 12:45 p.m., with the roof collapsing into the interior a few minutes later.

 

Employees evacuated from the businesses quickly after calling 911 and firefighterswere not required to search the businesses before starting their attack, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

Two firefighters among the 40 to 50 who responded were slightly injured, one who fell and another for a sprain, Wilson said. Both were taken to PromptMed, which is Columbus Regional Hospital’s urgent care facility on 25th Street.

In terms of manpower required, fire investigator Matt Noblitt described the Carpet Mania fire as the most serious in Columbus since the United Way building blaze Dec. 24, 2009.

Firefighters do not yet have a suspected cause for the fire, but had it under control by 4:48 p.m., Wilson said.

Fleeing fitness center

Although firefighters attempted to contain the fire, it was so intense that it spread to Deathproof CrossFit, northwest of the carpet store, completely destroying the fitness center, firefighters said.

About 15 people were well into a lunchtime workout session when the lights began to flicker, Crossfit director of operations Audra McNear said.

Suddenly, fitness center owner Jase Robinson ran inside, yelled that the building was on fire, and told everyone they needed to get out immediately, McNear said.

“As soon as we did, flames broke out at the carpet store,” McNear said.

The fire quickly engulfed the fitness business, which had moved to its location near Carpet Mania in February 2015, McNear said. Black smoke billowed from a stack of tires next to the building that McNear said were used for workouts at the facility.

Robinson said he didn’t have an estimate of how much equipment was inside the building, but he planned to start over despite the damage.

“It’ll be back,” he said. “It’ll take some time. It’s just working through the process of rebuilding.”

Others impacted

As the flames spread north, they encroached on another business complex off Michigan Street also owned by Mann, which was next to the fitness center. Each of the two buildings has four suites.

The office closest to the fitness center is occupied by Advantage One Imaging Center, Inc., a hybrid digital/graphic service that has served Columbus since 1979.

Advantage One owner Tim Cooney said he was discussing a recent upswing in business with graphic artist Greg Benson when the lights began to intermittently flicker.

Moments later, a business associate informed them of smoke running along the building’s roof line, Cooney said.

“Before you knew it, everybody was yelling ‘Fire’ and telling us to get out of the buildings,” Cooney said.

The first thing Cooney and Benson grabbed was their hard drives and external hard drives to make sure they were saved, he said.

As Cooney made sure a recreational vehicle was driven away from the flames, Benson said he began trying to get all the computers out of the building as quickly as possible.

“I was ripping cords out of the wall,” Benson said. “But within five minutes, the smoke inside the building was so thick, it was hard to breathe, so we got out.”

Firefighters said the fire substantially damaged an east exterior wall at Advantage One, but a firewall protected the business from further catastrophe.

“A firewall was the only thing that came between us and complete disaster,” Cooney said.

However, as they looked inside, they saw a large amount of water damage, with water coming from the ceiling to the floor, causing a great deal of damage to the business’ large-format printers, Cooney said.

The business will be closed for an undetermined amount of time pending a visit from its insurance adjuster, Cooney said. Firefighters were also concerned about oxygen tanks stored in another suite by a medical supply company that were quickly removed before the fire could reach them.

Home Health Depot owner John Fitzpatrick, who mainly operates his business at 3030 State St., said all the tanks he stored in his 10th Street storage facility were removed. The fire did not reach Fitzpatrick’s suite, and will not hinder his medical supply company’s operations, he said.

Columbus/Bartholomew County’s emergency alert system sent out an Everbridge notification at 1:17 p.m. warning residents to stay away from the area as additional fire departments were called in to assist with a second alarm issued at about 1 p.m.

Columbus Township Fire Department was dispatched to the scene, where it was positioned on the southeast corner of the building with an aerial ladder truck, Wilson said.

As dark black smoke billowed up and to the east, disruptions of travel were reported in near downtown areas for hours.

Columbus firefighters were also working to prevent damage at Ashford Park Apartments, an affordable housing project at 1616 10th St., on the north side of the fire. Early in their efforts, they reported the apartments were experiencing some heat damage from the intense carpet store fire.

At 5 p.m., firefighters were still at the fire battling pockets of fire under the collapsed portions of the carpet store, Wilson said. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. held students who lived in the area at their schools in the afternoon rather than transporting them home to ensure their safety.

Cummins Day Care Center at 650 Pleasant Grove asked Cummins employee parents to pick up their children Wednesday afternoon as soon as possible as the acrid smoke covered the area and emergency vehicles continued to arrive at the scene.

Other businesses located in the four north side suites that escaped damage include CMR Electric and Pascal’s, a local machine company, Cooney said. A third business spared from the flames was Hays + Sons, a fire restoration company.

Alexis Patterson, an office manager who works at CMR Electric, was inside the business located directly behind where the fire occurred with her mother, Christine Rossittis, and were told to evacuate.

“All I had to do was step outside and I saw big flames and smoke,” Patterson said.

Rossittis described the fire as “surreal” before adding that it was fortunate there were no injuries.

“I did not expect it to burn to the ground like this,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll be able to rebuild and start again.”

Author photo
Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com