Throughout Sunday, firefighters battled an early-morning blaze that destroyed a handful of Uptown businesses and displaced dozens of OU students.

Black ash settled alongside one of the first overnight snowfalls of the season Sunday after an early morning fire engulfed a handful of Uptown buildings on West Union Street.

Smoldering into the early afternoon, the fire displaced dozens of Ohio University students and destroyed a handful of Uptown businesses.

4:11 a.m.

Firefighters from the Athens Fire Department responded to a fire reported in the block of West Union Street between Court and Congress streets.

Soon after, first responders began evacuating residents — including 40 OU students — from the north block of West Union Street between Court and Congress streets and the west block of Court Street between Union Street and the alley north of Chipotle, 41 S. Court St.

6:11 a.m.

Approximately 15 evacuated OU students living Uptown had gathered on the fourth floor of Baker University Center, where Dean of Students Jenny Hall-Jones began reserving hotel rooms for them.

On West Union Street, flames had already been extinguished at Kismet, 16 W. Union St., but not before they rendered both its storefront and interior barren.

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6:46 a.m.

At least six fire trucks were on the scene, including ladder trucks from The Plains Volunteer Fire Company and Nelsonville Fire Department.  

The effort also included firefighters from Rome Township, Richland Area and Waterloo Township, in addition to those from Athens, Nelsonville and The Plains.

Athens’ $1.1 million ladder truck, which was funded in part by a $250,000 contribution from OU, was not part of the response effort, Deputy Service-Safety Director Ron Lucas later said, as it was being worked on.

7:15 a.m.

Officials had closed Court Street to vehicular traffic by this point. Post reporters on the scene reported seeing more smoke than flames on West Union Street.

7:37 a.m.

Two volunteers from the Athens branch of the American Red Cross began setting up an impromptu aid station near Uptown Grill, 11 W. Union St., for firefighters battling the blaze.

8:18 a.m.

Hall-Jones said OU was transporting displaced students to the Baymont Inn, 20 Home St., and Holiday Inn Express & Suites, 555 E. State St.

9:07 a.m.

Athens accountant Alex Couladis told The Post he got a call 20 minutes earlier alerting him that two properties he and his brothers own — those housing Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery, 24 W. Union St., and The Union Bar & Grill, 18 W. Union St. — were on fire.

The properties have been in the Couladis family since the 1940s and 1950s, he said, adding his father was one of the first owners of The Union.

“(We’re) just kind of shocked,” Couladis said.

9:35 a.m.

At a news conference under OU’s College Gate, Lucas said firefighters were “still watering down” The Union, which was the only building on fire at that point.

11:20 a.m.

Jackie O’s owner Art Oestrike told The Post that fire damage to his business was minimal but that water used to combat the blaze caused an unknown amount of damage.

He added that his kitchen and public house will close for a long time, but the brew side of Jackie O’s will continue serving drinks.

“We’re back to 2009,” Oestrike said, referencing the early days of the pub before Jackie O’s expanded into the public house side.  

Afternoon

As firefighters continued to dump water on smoldering flames, an outpouring of support combined with a coordinated effort from OU to aid those affected by the fire. 

Students and others donated clothing, food and other necessities at Baker.

At 4 p.m., the university held a news conference where a spokeswoman announced various ways OU plans to help students, including providing them with temporary and long-term housing, meal plans, gift cards and coordination with faculty to work around this week’s scheduled classes. 

Simultaneously, the university held a meeting where affected students and their parents heard from top OU officials and learned of the measures the university was taking to support them. 

Evening

Lucas told The Post that the city and other official groups would have no more information about the fire at that time. Athens Fire Chief Robert Rymer is expected to speak to the media Monday at noon. 

Firefighters will remain at the scene through Monday, monitoring the “hot spots” in the buildings, he said. 

The state fire marshal’s office is investigating the fire but had nothing new to release on Sunday.

“A couple times throughout the day, that fire started again,” Lucas said. “We’ll assess it in the morning to determine whether we can open (Union) up.”

Will Drabold, Olivia Hitchcock and Emily Bohatch contributed to this article.

@SamuelHHoward

sh335311@ohio.edu

 

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