WESTERVILLE, Ohio (WCMH) – A two-alarm fire that destroyed a Westerville apartment building was caused by a resident burning a Christmas tree in the fireplace, according to firefighters.
According to the lead investigator of the case, the person was disposing of a Christmas tree by cutting the small branches off the tree and placing them in the fireplace.
Heat from the fireplace flue radiated to the apartment walls in the unit above until reaching an ignition point.
The building on Buffalo Run at the Remington Station Apartments was so badly damaged, investigators could not determine if there were any issued with the flue being damaged or improperly installed.
The fire smoke and water damage displaced 10 families with 19 adults and 15 kids. The Red Cross said it is helping more than 30 people with immediate needs such as food, shelter and medication.
The building is estimated to be a $2 million loss, not including anything inside.
The apartment complex said it’s working to move the displaced residents into other vacant units.
When firefighters got to the apartments, they called for extra help, “knowing that this is a wooden building and we have a lot of high winds today,” Columbus Fire Battalion Chief Steve Martin said.
Firefighters from five agencies, including Columbus and Westerville, eventually managed to knock down the fire, despite issues with the water in the hydrants.
No injuries were reported, but the building was destroyed as the fire spread through the attics and ripped through much of the roof.
Ron Moreno, who lives in the building next door, said Thursday he felt sorry for the families who lost everything so soon after the holidays, although he said burning a Christmas tree in a fireplace was not a good idea.
“It wasn’t a very smart thing to do, obviously,” Moreno said. “Pine trees, they got a lot of sap in them—they’ll take off like that, especially when they’re dry, so it’s not something that you should be doing. Not the proper way to get rid of your tree. It’s terrible what happened because of it, it seems.”
Several tenants told NBC4 they were required to have renters insurance as part of their lease.