COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Columbus fire crews faced additional challenges, and aggression at times, as they responded to fire calls during a weekend marked by escalating protests and riots.
The Division of Fire is investigating a suspicious three-alarm fire at a large, unoccupied apartment complex, the Residences at Topiary Park. The call came in around 3:00 a.m. Sunday to the four-level luxury building on S Washington Ave. and Library Park.
When crews arrived, it appeared to have been burning long enough to scorch holes through the floors, preventing firefighters from effectively attacking the fire from the inside. Ladder trucks sprayed water on the complex from all directions as flames consumed the top levels of the building and caused the entire roof to collapse. No one was hurt.
It was the largest call late Saturday into early Sunday, but it wasn’t the only one in the neighborhood near downtown.
Chief Steve Martin, the public information officer for Columbus Division of Fire, said at least 4 or 5 other fires were reported during the overnight hours. The majority were small to moderate trash fires near Oak St. and Broad St., which investigators suspect could be related to overnight protest groups.
The Topiary Park fire is also being investigated for ties to the same destruction. Several glass doors of the complex were smashed, as well as windows in work trucks parked along the street nearby.
Responding crews ran into challenges navigating streets filled with protesters. At times, Martin said, the aggression turned on fire vehicles.
“We’ve had some of our vehicles hit with cinder blocks and windows knocked out, body damage of our vehicles. So that gets us a little bit more on edge,” he explained.
No one was hurt during the violence, but Martin said it might have slowed response times as firefighters waited for police to clear the scene. He stressed the fire department’s biggest goal is to keep the entire community safe.
“The fire department is for the protection of everybody,” Martin said. “For the protection of the protesters, as well as the protection of police and fire and people who are just on the sidelines observing.”
No suspects have been identified in the weekend fire calls and the official causes are under investigation.