Columbia man returns from grocery shopping to house fire

Friday, March 22, 2013 | 8:54 p.m. CDT
George Wolfe, the owner of the Clinkscales Road home that caught fire on Friday, returned home from grocery shopping to find firefighters had just controlled the blaze.

COLUMBIA — A Clinkscales Road homeowner returned from a grocery store trip to stock up for Saturday night's predicted snowstorm only to find fire trucks in front of his home. 

George Wolfe, 86, got back just as the fire department was wrapping up a secondary search of his home at 105 Clinkscales Road. The firefighters had been worried that Wolfe was still inside the burning home.

The department responded to a call from Wolfe's neighbor, Scott Mullins, at 3:37 p.m. Mullins was tipped off to the fire by his barking shitzu, Max. Mullins said he knew something was wrong because Max never barks. 

From Mullins' backyard, he saw smoke billowing from Wolfe's roof, and he yelled for his wife to call 911.

Three fire engines, one ladder truck and a rescue squad arrived. Not realizing Wolfe was out, the squad searched the house through zero visibility before attacking the fire.

Firefighters had the blaze under control in 15 minutes, Columbia Fire Department Captain John Metz said.Although flames were confined to the laundry room, smoke damaged the entire home. 

Metz said preliminary damage is estimated at $40,000. 

Wolfe took the fire in stride.

"Don't get excited," he said. "You've had a lot of things happen to you at my age." 

Wolfe's biggest concern were the books of his family's genealogy records. Most were not stored in the laundry room, but he was unsure how much damage the smoke caused. 

Wolfe planned to stay with his daughter, who lives in Columbia, on Friday night. 

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. 

Supervising editor is Emilie Stigliani.

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