Fire displaces father, 2 children

A father and two small children were left homeless after a fire at a Columbus rental home on Tuesday evening.

Neighbors alerted 911 dispatchers to a fire at about 6:49 p.m. at 41 S. Cherry St, according to the Columbus Fire Department. The occupants of the home were away at the time the fire was reported.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found the single-story home with heavy fire showing outside. As firefighters prepared to attack the flames, they found a vehicle parked near the home was also on fire. Firefighters quickly directed water onto the flames hoping to slow the fire’s progress into the residence.

As firefighters attacked the fire, a neighbor told firefighters that there was a possibility that children may be inside the home. With two vehicles parked in front of the home and no signs of occupants, firefighters transitioned to an interior search to look for anyone who may be inside the home. With additional firefighters arriving on the scene, crews advanced into the home for a rapid search. A search of the home revealed that no occupants were inside.

Operating in the extremely hot evening temperatures, firefighters continued to battle the blaze until the flames were extinguished. Once all visible fire was extinguished, firefighters removed ceilings and drywall inside the home to search for any hidden fire. Due to the excessive heat, additional fire units were requested at the scene to allow firefighters to rehabilitate and hydrate.

The tenant, Bradley Mercer, age 42, old investigators that he learned of the fire after a neighbor contacted him by phone. Mercer told investigators that he and his children had left the home approximately 30 minutes before he received the call. Mercer said that he has lived in the home for 4 months.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Damage to the home and contents are estimated at $50,000.

Due to the damages, the family is receiving emergency assistance from the Salvation Army. No injuries were reported at the scene.

Agencies that assisted at the scene include the Salvation Army, Bartholomew County Emergency Operations Dispatch Center, Columbus Police Department, Columbus Regional Health Emergency Medical Services, Columbus City Utilities, Duke Energy and CenterPoint Energy. Harrison Township and Columbus Township Fire Departments provided fire standby services for the City of Columbus during the incident.