House burns during street festival in Athens
FOR THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH Saturday April 28, 2012 10:11 PM
A reveler at Palmer Fest near Ohio University is helped after being overcome by smoke from a house fire.
ATHENS, Ohio — What could be the last year of Ohio University’s notorious Palmer Fest block party ended in flames when a house on Palmer Street caught fire tonight and emergency personnel cleared the street.
A witness said someone threw a cigarette through the basement window of 11 Palmer St. and the house began to burn around 7 p.m. Fire crews put out the blaze, then police moved in to clear the street where OU students and others were gathered for the street party that has taken place each spring for the past 21 years.
Residents of the house declined to discuss the fire. Firefighters said no one was injured.
Police in riot gear told revelers to “Get inside, or go!” By a little after 8 p.m., the street was cleared. Officers said anyone found outside would be subject to arrest.
The annual street fest is one of many weekly block parties held in Athens each spring and gained notoriety after it ended in riots in both 2009 and 2010. Partiers burned couches and chairs and pelted police with glass bottles during the party both years.
In what police deemed an “uneventful” party last year, more than 100 people were arrested for various offenses. Athens officials say final arrest totals for tonight’s party will not be available until Monday.
The street fests draw thousands of college students from around the state because they take place after many of Ohio’s semester schools have finished their spring classes. Ohio University will shift to semesters next year and classes will end earlier, so this might be the final year for the notorious spring fests.
“I’m extremely grateful that no one was injured by this fire, and I certainly commend the efforts of the police and safety crews that worked to put it out,” said OU Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi. “We’re trying to offer any support we can to the residents of the home in terms of emergency housing or anything they need. Our primary concern is the safety of our students.”