COLUMBIA — Residents dotted the grassy areas of the Ash Street Place Apartments in a smoky haze early Tuesday afternoon, watching as firefighters on three cranes sprayed down the north and south sides of building 103.
Resident Brenda Winchester walked through the parking lot gate to join her neighbors after rushing from work with one thing on her mind: Were her cats, Annie and Caroline, going to be OK?
"I heard about it (the fire) while at work from my supervisor, and I left to come see," Winchester said.
Columbia Fire Department crews were dispatched at 11:33 a.m. to the apartments, on Buckner Street off Stadium Boulevard, to a third-floor fire in the center of building 103.
There were no injuries and several cats were safely removed, according to a news release from Fire Marshal Brad Fraizer on Tuesday evening. It was unclear if those cats included Winchester's.
"The main thing is that everyone is accounted for," Fraizer said at the scene of the fire.
Columbia Assistant Fire Marshal Lt. Brent Davison determined that the fire started after a bathroom lighting fixture malfunctioned.
Fire was first spotted on the south side of the three-story building's roof and could be seen from the nearby Crossroads West Shopping Center. Firefighters struck a second alarm for more help.
Seven fire trucks, one ladder truck, a rescue squad and other support vehicles responded.
"We were able to attack it from inside and outside to keep it contained," Fraizer said.
The fire was kept to the center of the third floor but affected several apartments near the source apartment, Fraizer said. It also spread upward, damaging the roof. Many of the apartments have smoke and water damage.
Firefighters remained on the scene for more than five hours.
Six apartments were damaged heavily according to the news release. The damage to the building and contents was estimated at $450,000.
The 66-unit building remained uninhabitable Tuesday evening. A more thorough investigation will take place Wednesday to determine if any part of the building can be reoccupied.
The Red Cross Heart of Missouri Chapter responded to the fire to assist residents. The Broadway Christian Church, 2601 W. Broadway, will serve as a shelter Tuesday night.
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