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Elementary school community supporting family after College Hill fire displaces dozens

Northside fire
Posted at 12:04 AM, Mar 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-10 19:02:02-05

CINCINNATI — Dozens were unable to sleep in their beds Thursday night after a fire burned through a College Hill apartment building and now a local elementary school has stepped up to help one of the displaced families.

The Cincinnati Fire Department said crews responded to a fire at a building in the 4800 block of Hamilton Avenue at around 4:30 p.m. Thursday. While the fire tore through the second floor, firefighters said none of the building's 14 units went untouched.

"I could see the sky when I walked in to my apartment," Nathan Gordon said.

Gordon is the security guard at Gamble Montessori Elementary School and was displaced by the fire.

He said he was allowed to go into his apartment Thursday evening to grab some clothes and whatever he could find quickly that was salvageable, before authorities boarded up his unit.

"I might have to start over. I don't think anything is salvageable as far as beds and dressers and things like that," he said. "A building is materialistic, clothes are materialistic, those can be replaced but people can't so I'm just grateful, most definitely."

Gordon wasn't home when the fire started, but another resident describes what she experienced.

"My neighbor (was) up there yelling, saying, 'Get out the building,' it was on fire ... 10 seconds later it was fully engulfed on fire," one resident said. "I saw the smoke and I was like, 'OK this is real, this is not a drill."

She said she ran downstairs to help others evacuate.

"Knocking on doors 'cause we've got some elderly on the first floor and made sure that they were out and we all just came out," she said. "I would have grabbed my mink coat and all that kind of stuff and some TVs and everything, but that stuff can be replaced — we've got a whole floor of grandmas and great-grandmas and great-great grandmas so as long as they out, I'm fine."

After Gordon called the Gamble Montessori Elementary Principal, Melissa Ridley, to tell her what happened, she jumped into action.

"He's like, 'I'm going to make it through.' I'm like, 'yeah, you are with the support of all of us and everything, right, that's coming your way," she said.

A teacher started a GoFundMe, and school staff are collecting gift cards, clothing and personal hygiene items.

Ridley said Gordon goes above and beyond his job of keeping the building secure and safe.

"You see Nathan out on the playground. You see him out there passing the ball with the big kids, laughing with them and having fun," she said.

Offering this support is about more than just helping a friend. It's also about practicing what they preach: the Golden Rule.

"If it was me, I'd want somebody to do the same thing," Allison Wolff, the teacher who started the GoFundMe said.

For Gordon, it means the world.

"I'm always thinking about the people who don't have these type of opportunities. I'm just truly grateful," he said.

Crews were able to put out the flames in less than 30 minutes.

Those displaced were picked up on Metro buses and taken to a temporary shelter. Despite the damage, officials said only one person was treated on scene with minor injuries.

Officials said the fire is still under investigation, but residents said they did not hear any alarms go off when it started.

Gamble Montessori Elementary School said any non-monetary donations for Gordon and his family can be dropped off at the school.

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