Fire results in minimal damage

Employee extinguishes cardboard that ignited outside store; no injuries

A manager who used portable dry chemical fire extinguishers is being credited with helping prevent a larger fire at a retail office-supply store.

Columbus firefighters were called to OfficeMax, 3200 Columbus Center, at 4:22 p.m. Wednesday about a possible structure fire, with witnesses reporting a large amount of smoke coming from the back of the store, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

Store manager Juan Mellado told firefighters that he had entered the rear stock area of the store and found smoke and fire in a cardboard-compactor machine, and after warning store staff, he used two portable dry chemical fire extinguishers to try to put it out, Wilson said.

Mellado told firefighters he was unsure if the fire was out because of the large amount of smoke, and as smoke increased the fire alarms activated in the store, Wilson said.

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Store customer service manager Greg Dull called 911 and sales associate Billy Bettner helped evacuate four customers from the store, Wilson said.

Firefighters found a small fire isolated within the cardboard-baler machine at the back of the store, which was causing heavy smoke, Wilson said. After extinguishing the smoldering cardboard, firefighters removed burned cardboard from the building, Wilson said.

Columbus firefighters determined the fire was caused by an electrical short near the compactor’s motor, which ignited flammable cardboard below the motor, Wilson said. Fire damage was isolated to the machine and estimated at less than $1,000.

Firefighters used several ventilation fans to remove lingering smoke in the retail area and checked on adjacent businesses to make sure smoke had not traveled further in the shopping complex, Wilson said.

A check was made for carbon monoxide before employees were allowed back into OfficeMax, Wilson said. No injuries were reported.

Agencies assisting at the scene included the Columbus Police Department, Columbus Regional Hospital Emergency Medical Services and the Columbus Township Fire Department.

Fire extinguisher education

The Columbus Fire Department’s Fire Prevention Bureau provides fire extinguisher education to local businesses at no charge. To learn more, call the fire department at 812-376-2679.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.