Fire breaks out in attic of home

Saturday, March 1, 2008 | 7:20 p.m. CST; updated 12:43 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

COLUMBIA — A fire broke out Saturday morning in the attic of a Columbia home. According to a news release from the Columbia Fire Department, the owner, Thomas Watson, and his two dogs were able to evacuate without injury.

The fire started around 8 a.m. at 310 N. Eighth St., according to a news release from the Columbia Fire Department. Firefighters speculate that because the fire began in the attic, the smoke alarms did not immediately go off. However, Watson smelled smoke and, after failing to locate its source, left the house and called 911, according to the release.

Firefighters say they arrived to see flames and smoke coming from the roof of Watson’s home. Because of the home’s structure, firefighters had difficulty reaching the fire, taking about 45 minutes to get it under control, according to the release.

The cause of the fire was an electrical problem in a junction box in the back of the attic, according to the release. Firefighters performed salvage operations on the property, but investigators estimate the damage between $75,000 and $85,000.

Smoke alarms aren’t recommended for attic use because of the chemicals used in most attics’ insulation, said Steven Sapp, public information officer for the Fire Department.

“What you can do,” Sapp said, “is to use something known as a rate-of-rise detector,” or a device that detects a quick rise in temperature. “Other than that, there’s not a whole lot that can be done.”

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