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Shelter open for north Columbus fire victims as investigation continues

Dozens of people are getting help after their apartment building caught fire in north Columbus. (WSYX/WTTE)

Dozens of people are getting help after their apartment building caught fire in north Columbus.

The fire broke out at an apartment on Belcher Drive where a Red Cross shelter has opened for them until they can get back on their feet. Many of those victims escaped with only the clothes they had on Wednesday. No one was hurt.

The generosity from the Columbus community is soothing for nearly 200 people.

Many are in unfamiliar surroundings after the fire destroyed 10 apartments and smoke ruined what was in its path.

"We've got different languages. We've got different cultures and different beliefs," said Keith Parrill with the American Red Cross.

While a Somali restaurant donated dinner, Burhan Ahmed, the Director of the Center for Somali American Engagement, lended his voice. He painted a picture of what Nur Mohamad endured after hearing screams, sirens and police pounding on her door.

"They were yelling come out. Everybody was running to save the children, their own, so all came out," said Ahmed, Director of the Center for Somali American Services.

Nur bundled in the coat that protected her from the cold when fire had other plans Wednesday.

"I couldn't get my belongings due to the smoke. So, they kept us in the leasing office. It was very cold," said Ahmed.

They have no electricity, water or any idea of when they can return home. The Red Cross put a roof over their heads and blankets over their babies. The Center for Somali American Engagement provided interpretation services.

"It was much safer. We get hot food. We're thankful for the appreciation, for the effort, for the help that we get from here, but also we're still missing home," said Ahmed.

Red Cross' Keith Parrill has seen typhoons and hurricanes destroy lives. While his disaster relief afar is rewarding, there's something about serving those closer to home.

"You never feel entitled. I guess I always feel grateful and that's how I feel here" said Parrill.

Columbus fire said the investigator isn't ready to make a determination yet on the case. He's looking into some possibilities. They don't have a reason to believe it is suspicious.

The shelter will be open again Friday.

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