COLUMBIA — A fire late Wednesday morning caused significant damage to six units at one of Columbia’s oldest motels on Business Loop 70 East.
The Columbia Fire Department arrived at the Arrow Head Motel, 1411 Business Loop 70 E., around 11 a.m. to put out the blaze, which was caused by a natural gas leak, said Battalion Chief Steven Sapp.
The estimated damage from the fire is $75,000.
A maintenance worker at the scene said that a co-worker smelled of gas earlier Wednesday while fixing a gas water heater and subsequently called the Fire Department.
When the firefighters arrived, the rooms were on fire, but the firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading and damaging other motel rooms and neighboring businesses. The department placed two trucks in front of two other businesses located next to the motel, Columbia Welding and Lee’s Tire Company to protect the buildings. Employees from the businesses watched as firefighters put out the fire.
“We were a little concerned,” said Allen Stidham, who works at Lee’s Tire Company. “We stepped outside, and we could smell smoke.”
Trucks blocked traffic on the busy street, and fire hose lines snaked across the road, causing the Business Loop to be closed between College Avenue and Old 63 for several hours. Columbia police patrol officers rerouted traffic away from the scene to Lakeview Drive behind the motel.
“Fire trucks got here pretty quick,” said Tim Shiver of Columbia Welding.
The leak that sparked the fire was likely caused by an old gas pipe and the valve supplying gas to the water heater. The cause of ignition is unknown, a news release from the Fire Department said.
Mohammad Eldeib, who has owned the motel for the past 10 years, did not want to comment on the incident, but he did tell fire investigators that the damaged units were unoccupied and that some of them were being used for storage purposes. He also confirmed the details provided by the Fire Department.
The Arrow Head Motel is more than 65 years old, according to the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Web site.