18 people, 2 dogs rescued in West Chester Twp. apartment building fire

Red Cross helping residents of Union Station

WEST CHESTER TWP. — Residents and pets were rescued from an apartment fire in West Chester on Monday and the Red Cross said several people utilized their mental health counseling services after the traumatic incident.

Assistant Fire Chief Randy Hanifen told the Journal-News the fire broke out at 3:15 p.m. at the Union Station apartments and it took 55 to 60 firefighters about a half hour to knock it down. Large amounts of smoke billowed and could be seen on nearby Interstate 75.

He said approximately 18 people from six apartments in the 10-unit building and two dogs were rescued uninjured.

“One apartment was what we would consider significant or total loss damage. Probably two of the adjacent apartments were significantly effected and then beyond that everything else was just water damage,” Hanifen said. “Unfortunately because the significant fire was on the third floor, it just kind of works its way through the building as we’re putting water in the building.”

He said the owners at the apartments and Red Cross worked to find places either in vacant apartments within the complex or in other accommodations.

Marita Salkowski, marketing director for the Central and Southern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross told the Journal-News the displaced residents received pre-paid debit cards to help them get buy what they might need — food, clothing, lodging and other essentials — to get through the first few days.

She said five of the units have been declared uninhabitable but three people declined their services. A few people took advantage of their disaster mental health services.

“We have licensed therapists who volunteer with the Red Cross who help people deal with the initial trauma of what it is they have witnessed,” Salkowski said. “You can imagine the emotional and mental toll that going through a disaster like this takes on you.”

There was some confusion following the blaze over reports that some dogs had died, Hanifin said “all dogs survived.”

“The true story is all dogs survived,” Hanifen said. “The dog that was there we left him in his cage because he seemed much happier until the homeowner came to get him. He was happy and stable where he was so we just left him alone. He didn’t seem overly happy with us being there.”

Hanifen said they are still investigating the cause internally and did not call the State Fire Marshal.

“There’s nothing out of the ordinary they’re just doing their due diligence,” Hanifen said. “Unfortunately fire investigation is you have to rule out everything possible in the building before you can say it was exactly this, it just takes time to do all that rule out information.”

The Lakota Schools are working to assist their displaced students.

“Our thoughts are with everyone who has been impacted by this tragedy. Our crisis team is working to assist our Lakota families who have been displaced by the fire. We encourage our community to visit the neighborhood bridges Lakota website for ways that they can help, including gift cards for food, personal care items and blankets,” said Betsy Fuller, director of school and community relations.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

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