Palmer Fest Shut Down After House Fire

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Four Ohio University students say they are staying at friends' houses after their basement caught on fire Saturday, leading to the eventual shut down of the annual student block party known as Palmer Fest.

Athens firefighters say they received a call at 7:08 p.m. and responded to the 11 Palmer Street residence.

George Klinger, captain at the Athens Fire Department, said no one was injured, but there was damage to the home.

He said the residence is currently uninhabitable, and all utilities have been disconnected.

John Hicks, who lives at the house, says he is frustrated by the inconvenience.

“Couple years ago, you set a couch on fire in the street,” said Hicks. “That's one thing. Throw bottles at horses. That's even more screwed up, and now, you're putting four people out of their home for the rest of the quarter. Like for what? So you can get hammered with your friends? Grow up.”

Hicks said his apartment suffered the worst damage of the four one-bedroom units in the house, and the majority of his clothes are ruined.

Klinger said there's no estimate of damage just yet.

Natalie Launer, who also lives in the house, said the basement was locked, but she thinks someone broke in.

“There was a padlock. Somehow it was broken. There were people earlier in the day urinating down there,” she said. “I'm assuming that later in the evening, either someone committed arson, which is unlikely, but more likely, that they were lighting a cigarette or something similar to that nature, dropped it in a really unfortunate place, and a fire ensued.”

Klinger said the cause of the fire has not been determined and is under investigation by the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Launer said Ohio University offered to let the four students stay in a residence hall Saturday night, but they decided to stay with friends instead.