OU, City Find Roles In Fire Aftermath

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Both the city of Athens and Ohio University were immediately a part of the Union Street fire response, and both entities are continuing to play their role in the assistance of displaced students and help for displaced businesses.

The city is working to be a liaison for businesses in the aftermath of the Sunday fire which severely damaged buildings housing Jackie O's Public House, The Union, Kismet, Smoke Zone, Bobcat Rentals and Jack Neal Floral. Meetings with businesses this week have given the city and the business owners an opportunity to start recovering, according to Ron Lucas, Deputy Service-Safety Director for the city of Athens.

"Really, our role now is to help people get in contact with each other," Lucas said. "We know that we have a responsibility to keep communication lines open and help in any way we can."

The city has also been able to promote different crowdfunding going on on the Go Fund Me website to bring money back to both employees and businesses that were affected.

The fire was a different experience for Lucas, who said it's the first time in his tenure that the city has had to deal with such a major event.

"It's certainly an eye-opener," Lucas said.

The city is also promoting the businesses that are able to open on the road with expanded signage while the road is still closed to traffic.

"We know that we have these businesses that are struggling, but we also have a road that needs opened," Lucas said.

Lucas said officials are also encouraging businesses to get started on insurance claims as soon as possible so that the return to normalcy can come that much quicker.

The university's Office of Student Affairs stepped in to bring the students that were housed in apartments above the businesses on Union Street off the streets. Hotel stays were arranged and clothing and supplies were gathered from donations and money given to a university fund.

The hotel stays ended Thursday and students are now deciding whether to take refuge in a dorm or to find other housing.

"Right now, seven have chosen to stay with us on-campus, some have already moved into other spaces off-campus," said Jenny Hall-Jones, Dean of Students, in an email sent Wednesday. "We have approximately 10 who haven't decided anything yet."

The students were also given the use of Bobcat Cash, meal plan assistance, transportation and Wal-Mart gift cards to replenish what they needed.

Jones said 27 students were temporarily displaced, but have now been allowed back into their apartments or will be by the end of the weekend.

Donations came pouring in for students, but now, the needs have changed, according to the university.

"Monetary donations are still being accepted to support affected students," wrote OU spokeswoman Stephanie Filson in an email. "Physical donations are no longer needed as a result of the overwhelming support of Bobcat friends and family."