Although it hasn't yet been determined whether fireworks were to blame for a South Toledo apartment complex fire that caused $5 million in damage and left about 200 homeless early Saturday, the police chief has called for a ban on the sale of the explosives.
It was reported that witnesses observed people shooting firecrackers in the area and saw some land on the roof of the apartment building where the fire started.
The fire destroyed eight apartment buildings and damaged three others at the Hunters Ridge complex on Gibraltar Heights near Byrne Road and Airport Highway, Assistant Fire
Chief Luis Santiago said yesterday. The complex's office also was destroyed.
"As far as the cause being fireworks, we're not prepared to go out on that limb just yet," Chief Santiago said, adding that interviews "are certainly pointing us in that direction." He said firefighters heard fireworks going off as they fought the blaze.
Toledo Police Chief Michael Navarre yesterday called for the ban on the sale of fireworks. "They have to ban the sale of fireworks, because, in my opinion, it makes absolutely no sense to sell them to people and tell them it's illegal to shoot them off," Chief Navarre said.
"The problem is, it's such a widespread problem, and it's been tolerated for many, many years, and it will be difficult with the resources that we have to crack down," he said.
Meantime, he said his department would look into tougher enforcement against fireworks.
Under Ohio law, only sparklers, trick noisemakers, and novelties may be lit without restriction. Other consumer fireworks may be purchased upon execution of a form under which the buyer promises to take the items out of the state.
Behind the yellow caution tape on scene yesterday, only a vending machine and white gazebo seemed untouched by flames.
A woman who identified herself yesterday as a regional manager for owners Karam Managed Properties LLC declined to comment.
Hunters Ridge resident Sarah O'Herron, 19, slept through the disaster in her apartment in Building AA, which was unaffected by the blaze. She first heard about the fire during a frantic phone call from her parents at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.
"They were just like, 'Are you alive? Are you OK'?" Ms. O'Herron said, having walked down the block to see the wreckage for herself.
The disaster hit close to home for Mae Womack, 19, who doesn't live in the complex but hangs out there often with another pal who does.
"It's a blessing that she was good. She was in good hands," Ms. Womack said, her back to the scene and her 2-year-old son on her hip. "I feel sorry for the people that lost their things."
The blaze began in the complex's Building K about 1:30 a.m. and quickly spread, suggesting "there was no substantial barrier between attics," Chief Santiago said.
About 200 people were displaced from their homes. As of 4:30 p.m. yesterday, the American Red Cross had provided emergency services to 89 families and an overnight stay Saturday for one person at the old Bowsher High School. The school will be open as a service center 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today.
Contact Bridget Tharp at: