COLUMBUS (WCMH) – Several neighbors are without a place to stay after a fire ripped through three houses in south Columbus Wednesday morning.
One house was destroyed and two others were damaged in the 800-block of South 22nd Street, where firefighters fought flames and tried to put out hot spots for hours.
The house in the middle, which was destroyed, was home to Billie Jo Langford and several of her family members, including her father, who is disabled.
“We starting from scratch and we just gotta stay strong,” Langford said.
She, along with her dad, son, sister and sister’s boyfriend, escaped from the house this morning. Langford’s sister smelled the smoke when she woke up to get ready for work and alerted everyone else to get out.
One of the family’s three pets also survived.
“We got out the house with no clothes on and no shoes or socks on our feet, but we made it out safely, so I thank the Lord and my sister’s good sense for that,” Langford said.
The fire destroyed their home and left her family with nothing. Langford said her son and her sister’s boyfriend dragged her father out of the house. No one had time to grab their cell phones or identification.
“You ain’t got time to grab nothing,” Langford said. “It’s just, ‘Get the heck out the house,’ and that’s what we did.”
While firefighters and investigators worked, Langford’s family took shelter in a COTA bus and spoke to Red Cross workers.
Darryl Neal, who said he has been driving for COTA for ten years, said his supervisor asked him this morning to take his bus to south Columbus to provide shelter to a family in need and to firefighters.
“They’re still pouring water and it’s cold out here, so I’ll probably be out here awhile. I’m not going anywhere until they tell me to go,” Neal said.
Neal said he’s done this before, and he was moved in the past when COTA did this for residents at his daughter’s apartment complex, which he said burned down on a hot summer day.
“You know, the heroes are the ones that are fighting this fire, but being able to give comfort to families and the firefighters in need, with a warm bus or, you know, with the A/C in the summertime, it really makes you feel good,” Neal said.
It’s help Billie Jo Langford and her family could use right now.
“If you can, just give us your thoughts and think about us and pray for that, that we have a more blessed New Year this year, that we’d get over this situation in our lives,” Langford said.
The Red Cross is working with neighbors to help them find a place to stay. That includes others who were displaced by these fires, although it wasn’t clear exactly how many people were affected.
The investigation into what caused the fire continues. The fire chief on scene said the building department was expected to come out and condemn the house that was destroyed.
The fire chief said three people were taken out of one home and one person out of another. Crews searched the first floor of the house in the middle but didn’t find anyone inside. The chief said the second floor was inaccessible due to the fire and structural damage.
Firefighters said they dealt with two to four frozen fire hydrants and said that is common this time of year. They were still able to fight the fire, though.
The Red Cross responded to the scene to help displaced residents, and a COTA bus parked on a nearby street to shelter some people from the cold.
The fire department said there were no reports of injuries and that the building department and fire investigators would be coming out at daylight. The building department was expected to condemn the house with the worst damage.
This – is all Billie Jo Lengford has left.