Five hospitalized in two-alarm fire; apartment building had history of violations

fire

CLINTON TWP., OH (WCMH) — Five people were taken to the hospital and more than two dozen were displaced after an apartment fire in Clinton Township Friday morning.

People inside the apartment building in the 3600 block of Cleveland Avenue awoke to a terrifying situation as smoke alarms went off and heavy smoke clogged the air.

In 911 calls from inside the building, callers begged for help.

“We’ve got the fire department coming right now,” a 911 call-taker told one man who said he was trapped in a bathroom. “They know where you are, OK?”

Chaquana Townsend and her family woke up to the alarms.

“And when we woke up I asked [my partner] was it real?” Townsend said. “Cause the alarms always go off in that building. And they fixing our stuff and it never be a fire.”

One by one, Townsend dropped her children, ranging in age from one week to nine years old, out of a window to safety.

“So we wouldn’t die,” Townsend said.

NBC4 spoke to the landlord of the property, Charles Jia, to ask what he planned to do for his tenants, including Townsend’s family. Jia said he had been out of town and was still trying to figure out what happened.

“I have no comment at this time,” Jia said. “I do not know. I need to get to the bottom of the firsthand information or report on that before I make any better judgment.”

NBC4 obtained records from the Clinton Township Fire Department that show a history of fire code violations at Jia’s Cleveland Avenue properties.

In March 2014, there were 11 violations noted in one inspection, ranging from exposed wiring to uninspected fire extinguishers. The biggest issue, Chief Brian Fraley said, was that the fire alarm system had been removed.

By March 2015, the fire alarms still weren’t in place. The fire department ordered the landlord to have a “fire watch” at the property at the rate of $35 per hour. Fraley said that continued for 30 days until the alarms were reinstalled.

The smoke alarms were working Friday morning. Chief Fraley said investigators believe the fire started on an outside wall in the apartment complex, but they didn’t know yet what caused it.

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