Investigation continues into Fifth Street commercial building fire

Columbus firefighters and the state fire marshal’s office continued combing through the rubble at the rear of the Fifth Street commercial building known as the Irwin Block trying to find a cause for the late Saturday night fire.

A cadaver dog was brought in by the state fire marshal’s office to detect if any human remains were in the structure, but the dog did not alert while searching the back of the building believed to be where the fire may have originated. A Columbus Police officer who arrived prior to firefighters took a photo of the back of the building on fire which had led firefighters to focus their investigation on that area.

Investigators from both agencies worked at the scene for approximately eight hours on Sunday, sifting through debris in an area investigators believe to be the origin of the fire located at the street level rear of the building for 422 Fifth St. and 440 Fifth St.

Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman, said due to structural damage caused by the fire and concerns over additional building collapse, investigators are limiting the area of investigation to the street level portion of the building believed to be the area of fire origin. Investigators consider 422 Fifth St. a total loss and Wilson said Monday it is likely the building will have to be demolished.

Columbus firefighters worked throughout the early Sunday morning hours to control the blaze, which was reported at 11:50 p.m. Saturday by a passerby who saw flames at the back of the building. Three firefighters sustained minor injuries at the scene but returned to work later in the incident. One was injured when jumping away from a partial collapse of the building and two others were injured when slipping on ice at the scene. Firefighters were working in freezing conditions Saturday night into Sunday, with temperatures at about 28 degrees and wind chills in the teens.

At the peak of the firefighting operation, firefighters flowed approximately 8,500 gallons of water per minute into the building, Wilson said. According to fire department investigators, approximately 1.2 million gallons of water flowed to the building during the fire.

Two portions of the building at 422 Fifth St. collapsed during the fire. Columbus Fire Department Engine 2 sustained damage as a result of one partial building collapse. The engine will remain out of service pending a damage assessment and repairs.

Fire separation walls between the two buildings confined fire damage to 422 Fifth St. Firefighters said 440 Fifth St. sustained water and smoke damage during the fire. Businesses located at 440 Fifth St. were able assess damages and retrieve articles from office spaces over the weekend. Electric and water utilities are expected to remain out of service until life safety and building fire protection systems can be assessed and repaired, Wilson said.

Investigators have requested that any individual who may have information related to the fire should contact Columbus Fire Department investigators at (812) 376-2583.