Apartments, coffee shop demolished after three-alarm blaze above Molly Malone's in Pleasant Ridge

CINCINNATI -- Around 100 firefighters spent hours Thursday afternoon battling a blaze that threatened the heart of Pleasant Ridge. They extinguished it with zero injuries, but one of the buildings to which the fire had spread -- once home to three apartments and Coffee Exchange -- was a total loss.

Crews moved in to demolish it later in the evening.

"It really meant a lot to me," said 9-year-old Natalie Loomis, fighting tears. Her family visited Coffee Exchange twice each week before school. "I understand they need to tear it down. I don't know; it just has me really emotional."

Fire officials said the three-alarm fire started in one of the second-floor apartments above Molly Malone's Pub, spreading to the adjacent Coffee Exchange and Queen City Comic & Card Company. All three businesses had sustained some degree of fire or water damage by the time it had been extinguished, although only Coffee Exchange was later demolished.

At the height of the fire, Chopper 9 showed exclusive pictures of ladder crews pouring water into large holes in the rubberized roof as they worked hard to keep flames from spreading.

Firefighters initially struggled to find the source of the blaze, which had started in the attic in one apartment, and to contain it among the aging, tightly packed buildings.

"(I feel) just sadness," Pleasant Ridge resident Sarah Brinkman said. "The street has been doing so well. All the businesses have been growing. Things have been flourishing in Pleasant Ridge. The last thing we need is a tragedy like this."

Residents of the demolished apartments, who declined to speak on camera, said they lost everything: Their clothes, their possessions and their home.

The owners of the affected businesses, nearby resident Sandy Hackers said, had lost years of hard work and investment in the surrounding community.

"It's a tragedy," she said. "But I'm confident our community is strong and vibrant. We'll rebuild."

Pleasant Ridge Community Council president Terri Gossard hopes she and others who care about the neighborhood can start right away. Anyone who wants to provide support to Coffee Exchange or the displaced apartment residents should email president@pleasantridge.org.

"(Coffee Exchange's owners) say we need a place for them to open up tomorrow," she said. "We need to keep the pattern Pleasant Ridge has in getting the morning coffee."

Officials said they don't know yet what caused the fire.

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