UPDATE: Man awakens to find trailer on fire

Saturday, January 24, 2009 | 4:37 p.m. CST; updated 8:07 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 24, 2009
Firefighters use hoses to break through a window of a burning trailer Saturday before trying to knock down the wall to gain access to the trailer. The fire was originally reported as an explosion, but officials were still investigating the cause early Saturday afternoon.

COLUMBIA — Saturday afternoon a fire completely destroyed the trailer at 3403 Elm Grove Drive, Lot 12.

Columbia Fire Department officials reported that one man, Peter Koenig, 24, was inside sleeping at the time of the fire, but he awoke and escaped unharmed. He told firefighters that two dogs and three cats lived in the residence. The dogs and one cat escaped uninjured; two cats died in the fire.


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"We heard a loud boom, and we all ran outside. There was fire coming out of every side of the house," neighbor Kandice Gatewood said.

Justin Samuels, 27, told firefighters, he heard a loud pop from the front porch of his home on Lot 2. He saw smoke and told his wife to call 911. He then ran to the trailer and just as he was knocking on the door, Koenig was coming out with pets.

Samuels told investigators he used a portable fire extinguisher to try to put out the fire, which he said was in the mobile home's crawl space in the area of the water heater. He said each time he tried to put out the fire, it flamed back up until the extinguisher was used up.

He said that smoke alarms went off after Koenig left the mobile home. Investigators say they probably didn't go off earlier because the fire was underneath the trailer.

As firefighters battled the blaze, they knocked in walls and hurled flaming mattresses and furniture out into the street. Burning piles of personal belongings including wheelchairs and baby carriages were extinguished one by one.

The mobile home's owners — Karen L. Koenig,  49, and Sondra Gilbreath, 54, weren't at home when the fire began but arrived soon after. Karen Koenig was treated at the scene by Boone Hospital Center paramedics when she fainted after she saw the damage. She refused further treatment.

Firefighters say the fire started under and around the wire heater closet. An exact cause hasn't been determined. Damage to the contents and the structure was estimated at $50,000 but could go higher.

The Boone County Chapter of the American Red Cross is assisting the family with food and clothing. The owners are staying with relatives until they can find housing.


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