Fire torches apartments

Firefighters blame unattended candles for weekend blaze
Tuesday, May 3, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:37 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

A fire in a central Columbia apartment complex caused an estimated $500,000 in damage to the building Sunday morning.

Unattended candles were the cause of the blaze that spread from a central apartment and through the walls into adjoining apartments, Columbia Fire Marshall Steve Sapp said in a news release.

The fire began around 10 a.m. in Apartment 2-A in the 10-unit complex at 1030 Southpark Drive, just south of the MU campus. A resident, Brian Johnson, told fire investigators he left candles burning, fell asleep and woke up to find the room on fire. Johnson said he did not hear a smoke alarm, Sapp said, although the cause of the alarm’s malfunction remained unknown. Smoke detectors did not sound in adjoining apartments because there wasn’t enough smoke to set them off, according to the release.

The call to the Fire Department came from another resident who noticed the smoke and began knocking on doors, Sapp said.

Apartment residents Clark Corwyn and Jamie Barton of Apartment 4 jumped from the wooden deck of their apartment because escape routes were blocked by flames. Barton’s legs and ankles were injured in the fall, and she was sent to University Hospital for treatment. Corwyn was not injured.

“They dropped about 15 feet to an asphalt surface,” Sapp said.

Firefighters rescued Rickey Hendrix and Nancy Myers from 3-A through a window. They were trapped because the wooden deck was on fire. Both were evaluated for smoke inhalation but refused treatment.

All other residents were able to evacuate safely. Fire damage to Apartment 2-A was extensive, and the flames spread through a pipe and into the roof and attic of the complex. Firefighters used thermal imaging cameras to locate the fire in the attic and extinguish it.

A second alarm came about an hour after the first, requesting additional personnel. A special, third alarm was also sent out requesting an air truck to refill firefighters’ oxygen bottles.

The Boone County Chapter of the Red Cross responded at the scene and helped residents, who don’t have family in the area, find temporary housing, food and clothing.

Few of the residents were covered by renter’s insurance, Sapp said. The apartment building was owned by Barzell Inc., and the building is insured. The insurance does not cover the loss of tenants’ property, and it does not protect tenants from civil suits for damages in cases of negligence or property damage, Sapp said.

Representatives of Barzell Inc. could not be reached for comment.

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