Make your home page

3 firefighters sustain injuries after commercial building fire with partial collapse in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ind. (WISH) — A late night fire to a commercial office building that happened in Columbus has an unknown cause at this time, according to Columbus Fire Department.

At approximately 11:50 p.m. on Saturday, Columbus Firefighters responded to the 400 block of 5th Street for a report of a commercial building fire after a passerby discovered flames and called 911.

Firefighters arrived on the scene within minutes and reported a well involved fire at the rear of 440 5th Street. When firefighters began to deploy firefighting hand lines toward the rear of the building, a portion of a single story structure at 440 5th Street collapsed. As additional firefighters arrived on the scene and an initial attack commenced, firefighters determined that the fire had spread to the rear of 422 5th Street.

Firefighters entered 422 5th Street to search for occupants and encountered high heat and heavy smoke conditions. As firefighters entered one of the businesses located within the building,  crews located a cat who promptly ran from the building after firefighters forced entry into the office space. As crews searched the interior of 422 5th Street, conditions within the interior deteriorated rapidly. With an increase in visible fire viewed from the exterior and changing smoke conditions, the on scene command ordered all firefighters out of the buildings for an attack on the fire from the exterior. From the exterior, firefighters utilized both hand line fire hoses and elevated water streams from aerial ladder trucks. As extinguishment efforts continued, a large portion of the third story façade of 422 5th Street collapsed onto 5th Street, narrowly missing firefighter below.

As a result of the collapse, a large amount of debris landed on the ladder of Columbus Fire Engine # 2, which was directing a water stream into upper floor windows. Firefighters returned the ladder to the street level and removed bricks and building materials. No firefighters were on the ladder at the time of the collapse. As result of the damage to the Engine # 2, the apparatus was removed from service.

Working in freezing temperatures, firefighters gained control of the fire in approximately four hours. A downtown business, Realty One, 436 Washington Street, opened their business to firefighters as a warming shelter and offered coffee to the ice covered responders. The Salvation Army responded to the scene to provide nutritional support and additional beverages to firefighters. Due to flame impingement on power lines, the electric power service to a portion of the downtown area was discontinued. Due to debris left by the partial building collapse, 5th Street will be closed to traffic between Washington Street and Franklin Street for an undetermined period of time.

The initial search of the buildings indicated that both buildings were unoccupied. According to property management, both 422 and 440 5th Street are commercial office buildings with no residential occupancies. The buildings house several businesses including; The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Bailey and Wood Financial Group, Arnholt and Staggs Law Office and TD Advertising. Property management representatives shared with fire investigators that additional businesses lease space within both buildings.   

Approximately 40 City of Columbus firefighters worked at the scene to control the blaze. This included approximately six off duty Columbus Firefighters who were called in to assist with the operation. Additional ladder trucks where requested from the City of Seymour, and the town of Hope. Numerous Bartholomew County fire agencies provided standby service for the City of Columbus during the incident. Three Columbus Firefighter sustained slight injuries from falling at the scene, authorities said.

The cause of the fire is currently under investigation. Damage estimates are undetermined at this time.

Columbus Firefighter Jarrad Mullis shares information with firefighters at the scene of a commercial building fire in downtown Columbus, Indiana. (Provided Photo/Columbus Fire Departmnt)
Columbus Firefighters apply water to hot spots at an early Sunday morning building fire. (Provided Photo/Columbus Fire Department)
Columbus Firefighters apply water to hot spots at an early Sunday morning building fire. (Provided Photo/Columbus Police Department)