The State Fire Marshal's Office is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the identification of who set a Sept. 16 blaze at Pickerington's Lakes Edge Apartments that left eight families homeless.
Violet Township Fire Chief John Eisel urged anyone with information to call the Fire Marshal's Office at 1-800-589-2726 or the Violet Township Fire Department at 614-837-4123.
Temporary chain-link fencing and yellow caution tape cordons off the scene of the two-alarm fire.
In all, four units of the multifamily complex were completely destroyed and four other adjoining units were damaged, Eisel said. He said it could have been a lot worse, although a Violet Township firefighter did injure his shoulder "during the heat of the battle."
"It happened at 7:30 in the evening. If it happened at 7 a.m., there very well could have been a loss of life," Eisel said.
He said his department was dispatched to 1419 Lands End Circle at 7:32 p.m. Sept. 16 after receiving several 911 calls that evening. The structure is "the last building in the very back of the complex," he said.
"En route, crews could see heavy smoke in that area and upon arrival, they encountered heavy fire conditions," Eisel recounted. "From that point, they initiated an aggressive fire attack and searched for any victims. There were not any, thank goodness; the adjoining apartments were empty.
"Investigators were able to eliminate any accidental causes and we've received information that the fire was intentionally set," he said.
He told Violet Township trustees on Sept. 19 that the quick thinking of his staff significantly reduced the amount of damage.
"I was astounded and pleased and proud of the decisions made by the first two engines of ours. They limited the total loss to only four units to the left of that breezeway," Eisel said.
He said the fire's "point of origin" was in the front exterior of the unit.
"It was a big fire, a big deal," Eisel said, adding that in addition to Violet Township, fire departments from Truro, Madison, Bloom and Jefferson townships, the Basil Joint Fire District and the city of Columbus responded to the scene.
"We're pleased here in central Ohio to have response systems in place. They're all dispatched simultaneously," he said, referring to Violet Township's mutual aid and automatic response agreements with surrounding agencies.
The Fairfield-Hocking Area Red Cross has been assisting residents who were displaced by the fire, he said.