Hot embers stored in a paper bag caused a fire at a private residence in the Hinkson Creek Valley neighborhood early Monday morning, according to Columbia Fire Department officials.
The residents were preparing for work when they noticed heavy smoke coming from the roof over their garage, according to a fire department media release. They vacated the house with their pets and called 911.
Firefighters contained the fire to the garage and extinguished the flames. The blaze caused an estimated $20,000 in damage, the release said.
Fire department investigators determined the family had cleaned their fireplace the night before and stored a paper bag containing hot ashes in the garage.
Fire department officials encourage residents with fireplaces to use caution and common sense, because embers can smolder for a long time. Ash should be stored in a metal can with a lid instead of a combustible container, officials said.