Hilliard Northwest News

Linda Road apartments

Officials still investigating fatal fire

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KEVIN CORVO/THISWEEKNEWS
Norwich Township Fire Chief Bob Kaufman and other investigators inspect the damage from a fatal fire Jan. 5 at a Linda Road apartment building.
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As of Tuesday, Jan. 8, investigators still had not identified the person who died in an early morning fire Jan. 5 at a Hilliard apartment complex.

Hilliard police officer Hyda Slone said it likely would be about a week before the Franklin County Coroner's Office publicly released the name of the victim.

Tenants at the Linda Road apartment building said a middle-age man lived in the burned apartment.

Slone said Hilliard police "have a good idea" of the victim's identity, but the department cannot release the name until it is confirmed and family members are notified.

The cause of the blaze also has not been determined. Earlier this week, investigators from the state fire marshal's office, Norwich Township Fire Department and the Hilliard Division of Police continued to sort through the six-unit structure at 3883 Linda Road.

Two of the six units were unoccupied, and tenants at the other three occupied apartments were either not home when the fire occurred or safely escaped.

Norwich Township and Columbus firefighters arrived at 6:58 a.m. to fight the blaze, which was reported at 6:53 a.m.

"It was fully involved when we arrived," Norwich Battalion Chief Jeff Warren said.

Warren said witnesses described an explosion when the fire occurred.

"The whole room shook," said Elizabeth Jennings, 37, who resided on a second-floor apartment above where the ground-level fire started.

Jennings quickly evacuated her daughters, Akayla Hawley, 17, a junior at Hilliard Darby High School, and Briseis, 5, from the apartment. Two cats also safely escaped.

Jennings said the flames from the downstairs apartment were reaching the second-floor apartment next to hers.

"It was scary as we went downstairs outside and saw the fire," Akayla said.

Jennings said she feared for her cats but found both were safe when she was permitted to return to her apartment.

The family lost no property, but "it stinks to high heaven," Jennings said of the apartment where she had lived for five years.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross provided the family with blankets as Jennings contemplated how the family would move its belongings up the ice-covered steps of an adjacent apartment, where the family will relocate.

"What a way to start the new year," she said. "It's going to be a rough ride."

Even still, she said, she feels fortunate to have escaped safely with her family and their belongings.

Jennings described the man who lived in the burned apartment as reclusive. She recalled him having visitors only twice in the five years she had lived there.

She said she never saw him drive a car.

"He walked everywhere he went," said Jennings, who described the man as middle-aged, in his 40s and apparently of Indian descent.

The fatal fire was the first in Hilliard since a Labor Day fire on Sept. 6, 2010, claimed the lives of three people at a Bigelow Drive residence.

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