We are reminded of the important role firefighters play in ensuring public safety with the Jan. 24 four-alarm fire in Columbus.

The Columbus Fire Department responded to a 12:25 p.m. fire at a retail complex at 10th Street and Michigan Avenue.

The Carpet Mania building was engulfed in flames, and the thick, acrid smoke that rose skyward eventually could be seen for miles. Fire broke through the roof at about 12:45, with the roof collapsing few minutes later.

Bartholomew County’s emergency notification system issued an alert to residents at 1:17 p.m. advising them to stay away from area.

What was unfolding was the largest fire in the city since the United Way building caught fire on Christmas Eve 2009.

The fire destroyed Carpet Mania and a business next door, Deathproof CrossFit. Another nearby business, Advantage One, sustained substantial water damage. Damage has been initially estimated at $2 million for the structures and contents.

Firefighters also had work to prevent significant damage to Ashford Park Apartments, an affordable housing project north of the fire area.

Shifts of firefighters were on the scene for 28 straight hours, and returned later to address hot spots that flared up as long as three days later.

A total of 59 firefighters were needed to control the fire, the most manpower required since the United Way blaze. Of those, three were from Columbus Township. Thirty of the firefighters were off duty when they were called in for assistance.

What this fire demonstrated is the commitment and endurance of local firefighters. Without it, fires such as the one that destroyed the carpet and fitness businesses could have been even worse and caused more damage.

Firefighters encounter situations that are dangerous, but do so willingly to limit damage to property and harm to life. Public safety is crucial for a community, and something all residents can appreciate.