3 Columbus fires destroy businesses, displaces family; 2 injured

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Columbus firefighters battled three fires in less than 24 hours, sending a woman to the hospital, injuring a firefighter, destroying two business and displacing a large family.

The first fire happened around 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday as Frank's Collision Center on Warm Springs Road went up in flames. In total, 17 cars inside were damaged while firefighters worked to get passed tight security.

'First responders had to break a lock on the gate to gain entry, one firefighter slipped and was injured. The injuries were not life-threatening and investigators are not sure what caused the fire.

The shop owner was on scene during the fire surveying the damage. So far they have declined to comment.
The second fire happened on the 1400 block of 24th Street around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday. An air conditioning unit caught fire in a bedroom and one woman was injured. She was transported to Midtown Medical Center with second-degree burns. Her injuries were not life-threatening.
Seven people lived in the apartment, including two adults and five children, and the Red Cross was called out to assist the family. The Red Cross employee says the family has accepted assistance and will be put in a hotel and given food and clothing.
The third fire happened at a family-owned Stevens Hauling Contractors Inc, located on the northside of Columbus. Stevens Hauling Contractors Inc.
Mike Stevens says he arrived and found the shop and two dump trucks completely destroyed by fire. The fire department was called in around 6 a.m. on Wednesday. Fire investigators tell the family the cause of the fire is undetermined at this time but it appears to have been the result of bad weather in the area.
A bolt of lightning appeared to have struck a dump truck parked near the rear of the shop. The burning truck ignited the building and the fire grew more intense.

A wooden framed bathroom in the shop caught fire and the flames quickly spread throughout the rest of the building igniting several barrels of flammable liquids including oil and antifreeze. The barrels and other containers exploded and acted as rockets flying through the air leaving gaping holes in the roof of the building.

Mike Stevens, vice president of the family-owned business, was very positive Wednesday morning, despite the hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

"It's all in your attitude and sometime you have bad days, but tomorrow could be a good day," Stevens said.

The business was started by his parents in the 1950s. The business has been affected by fire three times over nearly seven decades of operation.

The first time an arsonist attempted to burn the business to the ground. The second time faulty wiring in a truck sparked a fire that spread to a second vehicle. This time lightning nearly burned the business to the ground. Stevens says this time was the worst.

Each dump truck costs $150,000 and two were destroyed including more than 20 tires that were reduced to wiring. The business is insured. The family is looking toward the future and many more years of business. The fire may have slowed business but they are happy no one was hurt.
Columbus Fire Marshall Ricky Shores said it doesn't appear the fires are connected. All three remain under investigation.

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