RIO GRANDE —The Ohio State Fire Marshal has ruled a massive Rio Grande apartment complex fire as accidental following an overnight investigation. No one was injured in the blaze.
At approximately 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, six Gallia County fire departments responded to 800 Ohio 325, Rio Grande, to assist in fighting a large-scale fire that broke out in a residential apartment complex. Valley View Apartments are located just south of the University of Rio Grande campus on Ohio 325. The complex has historically been known to house University of Rio Grande students but is currently being operated as government-subsidized housing.
According to Tim Miller with the Rio Grande Volunteer Fire Department, two calls were received in quick succession by Gallia County 9-1-1 at approximately 7:11 p.m., one by a pedestrian and another by a passing motorist. Miller said the residents of the damaged structure had been in the process of relocating to other Valley View units to allow for building renovations, but five apartments were still occupied at the time of the fire.
The apartment complex is made up of free-standing multiple-unit buildings. The fire involved one, 10-unit structure.
Miller said the fire was contained to eight of the 10 units, but the two remaining units within the building likely took on water and smoke damage.
Miller said Ohio 325 was closed to traffic from 7:15 p.m. to approximately 11 p.m. while emergency personnel fought to get the blaze under control.
Lyn Tolan with the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office told the Gallipolis Daily Tribune that the fire originated in the ceiling above one of the occupied apartments. According to Tolan, the tenants had unsuccessfully attempted several times to turn on a furnace located in the ceiling above the apartment. State investigators say those actions tripped a breaker, and a fire ignited in the ceiling in the vicinity of the furnace after additional attempts were made to get heat to the apartment. It was the first time this season the tenants had attempted to turn on the furnace.
“The Fire Marshal advises people using any heating element for the first time after a long break to monitor it very carefully,” said Tolan.
Eric McKinney, director of marketing for the University of Rio Grande, reported that before the fire was even extinguished, University of Rio Grande President Dr. Barbara Gellman-Danley had been in contact with the local branch of the American Red Cross and that plans were being made to provide shelter and amenities on campus to impacted families.
Tolan confirmed the fire was ruled accidental, and the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s investigation had concluded.
Responding to the scene were Rio Grande Volunteer Fire Department, Gallipolis Volunteer Fire Department, Springfield Township Fire Department, Centerville Fire Department, Greenfield Township Fire Department and Madison Jefferson Fire Department.