The frame of a house that burned in Nineveh still stands as a blackened reminder of the fire that killed a mother and two small children nearly six months ago.
Investigations of the fire, including by insurance companies, have prevented demolition of the building, but a work crew should begin dismantling the house by the end of the month or early next month, owner Ken McKee said.
An investigation wrapped up during the first week of April, so now the building can come down, he said. He does not plan to rebuild.
The home burned in October, killing 5-month-old John Ryan Slusher-Abbott and 22-month-old Hailey Slusher-Abbott. Their mother, Sirena Slusher-Abbott, 27, tried to rescue her children and died a few days later from burns and smoke inhalation.
Now, all investigations are finished and Sirena Slusher-Abbott’s husband, Chris Abbott, and other Nineveh residents want to see the duplex torn down. Abbott has to pass the house every time he drives to and from work in Columbus, and often he can’t help stopping in the street to remember, he said.
The property has become a dumping spot for trash, and several residents have complained to the township trustee’s office about the house, Trustee Janet Renner said.
“It’s a heartache. It’s a hazard. There are open puddles of water that are 5 or 6 inches deep,” she said. “It’s starting to be a garbage dump now. If you’ve got a loose chair or a bag of garbage, you just do a drive-by.”
The tragedy weighs on the neighbors, who’ve watched people come and go from the house, sorting through ashes as part of the investigations or removing a withered blanket that was left as a memorial.
Darlene Mudd, who owns Head to Toe Salon & Spa across from the house, had employees at her business when the fire broke out, and the tragedy has been hard for all of them, she said.
“I just really want to see it tore down,” Mudd said.
One of the first comments her new customers make is about the house, she said.
“It’s been long enough, is all I can say,” she said. “Until you’re there, people don’t know how it affects you on a daily basis.”
Investigators, including those from the state fire marshal’s office, local fire departments, the coroner’s office and insurance companies, dug through the ashy rubble following the fire as wintry weather would allow. Investigators from the fire marshal’s office determined the cause of the fire was candles burning near where Hailey Slusher-Abbott was playing.
The house was a duplex McKee rented to the Abbotts upstairs and another tenant, Charlie Richards, downstairs. Richards was at work during the fire.
The county health department could order that the house be torn down, but McKee has said he’s hired a company to clean up the site within the next few weeks, health department administrator John Bonsett said.
Chris Abbott said having the home torn down would help their family heal because it would eliminate the reminder. He’s trying to move on, and part of that process is fixing up a house for him and his surviving daughter, Aley Slusher-Abbott, 6.
He would like to see the site of the burned house converted into a park, he said.