Riot At Palmerfest

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Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl declared Palmer Street a riot area last night after a crowd threw bottles at firefighters who were trying to put out a fire.

The crowd was there for a block party of Ohio University students, an annual off-campus event.

The fire at 11 Palmer was reported a little after 7:00 PM.

Deputy Service-Safety Director Ron Lucas says "The fire department's ability to extinguish the structural fire was impeded by a hostile crowd."

"In order for the fire department to access the structure and to protect public safety," he says, "it was necessary for the police to move the crowd away from the structure."

He says, "The crowd resisted and began throwing bottles at the emergency responders and interfered with the fire hose deployment."

That's when the mayor declared a riot, giving police the authority to clear the area.

Lucas says the crowd was dispersed by 8:20 and the fire was contained by 8:30.

He says, "The cause of the fire is listed as suspicious and is currently under investigation."

At least 21 people were arrested, some before the fire and some after.

Lucas says, "Most of the charges were alcohol related offenses," but "there were 2 obstruction charges, 1 persistent disorderly conduct charge and 1 resisting arrest charge."

No estimate on the crowd size was released but Lucas says the party – known as Palmerfest – "seemingly attracted more people than the 2011 event."

The home suffered fire and smoke damage and is uninhabitable.