Early morning fire in central Columbia injures one

Friday, March 2, 2012 | 10:11 a.m. CST; updated 9:36 p.m. CST, Saturday, March 3, 2012

COLUMBIA —An early morning fire in an apartment in the 1400 block of Bass Avenue sent one Columbia man to the hospital. No one else was injured.

The 59-year-old man was exiting the apartment as firefighters arrived and was taken by ambulance to Boone Hospital Center for possible smoke inhalation.

At 5:21 a.m., the Columbia Fire Department responded to a report of a structure fire. The 911 caller said that she smelled smoke in the building as she was leaving for work and could see smoke coming from one of the apartment's windows.

According to a news release, Columbia firefighters found smoke coming from a second floor window on the east side of the three-story, 23-unit apartment building. They began evacuating residents and located the fire in an apartment on the second floor.

Fire crews found a futon-type mattress ablaze in the apartment and attacked the fire with a portable water extinguisher. They then took the smoldering mattress outside and extinguished its remains, the release stated.

Lt. Lisa Todd, an investigator for the Fire Department, said the cause of the fire was a cigarette that ignited the mattress. Damage to the building and its contents is estimated at $2,000. There were no working smoke alarms in the apartment.

"Working smoke alarms reduce your risk of dying in a fire by 50 percent," Columbia Fire Captain John Metz said in the news release. "They are essential to provide the early warning needed to safely escape a fire. Had an alert neighbor not been awake at such an early hour, the outcome might have been tragic."

Metz said it is a landlord's responsibility to make sure apartment buildings are equipped with working smoke alarms.

The Fire Department said smoke alarms need to be tested at least once a month by pressing the "test" button. Smoke alarm batteries need to be replaced at least once a year, and smoke alarms should be replaced every 10 years.

To ensure adequate protection, smoke alarms should be placed in every sleeping room and in a common area on every floor.

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