Sunday, August 26, 2001

Fire sends 17 families scrambling for safety

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An unattended candle most likely caused the four-alarm fire that made 17 families, including 41 children, fear for their lives Saturday afternoon, said Cincinnati District Fire Chief Steve Kluesner.

        Flames in the first-floor apartment rapidly spread to the second- and third-floor apartments directly above and smoke rapidly moved throughout the four-story building in Avondale shortly after 1 p.m., he said.

[photo] A four-alarm fire at an apartment building in Avondale was started by an unattended candle
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        Residents on the east end of the building were unable to use the fire escape as flames shot out of apartment windows at 631 Maple Ave., near Reading Road. Firefighters used ground ladders to help them escape. No one was hurt.

        But, “we had our hands full for quite awhile,” Chief Kluesner said.

        Marcie Stewart, 22, still didn't know where she was going to stay Saturday afternoon. She left a candle burning on her bedroom dresser when she left her apartment to go to the store with her daughter.

        She doesn't know whether she inadvertently knocked the candle over or whether the open windows and fans in the apartment caused the candle to topple.

        She returned home to find her bed on fire. She dumped a pot of water on the fire, but the flames were beyond her control.

        “I knew what to do ... run,” she said. “When I came back, it was terrible.”

        She and her three children lived in the apartment building for two years.

        Her worst fear about seeing the interior again was that “there is nothing there (but) ashes.”

        Smoke and fire damage totaled about $50,000, said the apartment complex manager, Satya Ramineni. He expected most of the residents to return to their apartments by night.

        American Red Cross assisted the displaced families. An investigation continues.


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