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Photo shows fire at apartment complex in Ohio, not children’s hospital

June 1, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: Photo shows a fire set at the children’s hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The fire in the photo occurred in an empty apartment complex in Columbus on Sunday, about a mile away from the Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

THE FACTS: Social media posts circulating Sunday claimed the hospital was set alight during weekend protests in Columbus.

“CHILDRENS HOSPITAL IN COLUMBUS OHIO SET ON FIRE DURING RIOT MAY 30,2020!,” a Twitter user falsely claimed in a May 31 post.

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“Y’all really did this to “Children Hospital “ said one early morning Facebook post followed by two emoji broken hearts. “It’s Kids in there man.....this is a HOSPITAL.” The false post was shared more than 7,000 times.

A screenshot of the photos was also used in a false Facebook post claiming the fire broke out at a children’s hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. “UAB Children’s Hospital last night,” stated the post shared on Monday. It was shared over 5,000 times. The Children’s of Alabama Hospital denied that there was a fire. “Reports of a fire and damage to Children’s of Alabama’s main campus on Birmingham’s Southside are false. Our hospital is open and safe to care for patients and families. Thank you for your support and concern,” an official Twitter account belonging to the hospital posted on June 1.

The apartment complex—Residences at Topiary Park—was under construction and was not occupied. The blaze was covered by local media. A closer look at the photo posted on social media shows that the smoke was coming from behind the hospital’s building.

“The building is the Big Lots Behavioral Health Pavilion, but the fire was not on our property,” said Katelyn Hanzel, media relations specialist with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The Columbus Division of Fire on Monday shared information about the fire on Facebook, confirming the apartment complex was on fire, and stating that there were no reported injuries.

“Just after 3:00 a.m., Columbus Fire responded to 65 S. Washington Avenue on what became a 3-Alarm Fire. The building is a mixed-use (businesses on the bottom floor and residential above) four-story apartment building. The building is still under construction and luckily not occupied when this fire occurred. The building is located behind the Main Library, along Topiary Park,” the post said.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. “This is the same area where rioters set several fires the evening before. Columbus Fire and Explosive Investigators will be conducting an investigation. An estimated value of damages from the fire is not available at this time. No injuries were reported at the time of this post,” Columbus Division of Fire posted on Facebook.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536