Six Injured and Dozens Displaced Because of Union Street Fire

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Six people were injured, 30 Ohio University students were displaced and five buildings suffered extensive damage as a result of an early morning fire on Union Street in Athens.

The buildings housing Jack Neal Floral, Campus Sundry, Smoke Zone, The Union and Jackie O's Public House were all damaged by the fire which started around 4 a.m. Sunday.

For hours, firefighters from Athens, Richland Area, The Plains and Nelsonville battled the blaze, eventually containing it to The Union by around 10 a.m. Each of the buildings experienced severe fire, smoke and water damage.

Four residents living in the private housing complexes above those buildings were injured. Three were treated and released and one was transported to a nearby hospital. A condition update was not available on that person.

According to Ron Lucas, deputy service safety director for the city of Athens and public information officer, a firefighter and a police officer were also injured but the extent of their injuries was not known and updates on either were not available.

The Athens Police Department evacuated the entire block on Union Street. As of Sunday morning, 30 Ohio University students had to be displaced from their residences. According to OU's Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi and Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones, those students have been placed in local hotels and were fed at nearby restaurants.

Initially, the students were taken to Baker University Center where a command center was constructed in the Honors Collegium. Jones was stationed there, directing students on where to go and helping arrange for places to stay.

Business owners and passersby stood at different areas of Court Street and accessible parts of Union Street to witness the scene. All that could be viewed however was smoke and blackened wood and concrete. Some tears flowed from the cheeks of those connected to the buildings while others hugged each other, happy to be safe.

The structural integrity of the buildings affected is not known at this time. The cause of the fire is also under investigation by the State Fire Marshal's Office although many around the scene speculated that the incident was started in the area of a generator.

Union Street has been closed from Congress to College streets, Court Street was closed from Washington to President Street and Congress Street was closed from Washington to Union Streets. Lucas said he did not know when the roads would be reopened.

Power was cut to the block from Court Street to Washington Street and from Court Street to Congress Street although some power had been restored by Sunday morning.