A fire destroyed an eight-unit Ashwood Apartments building Monday evening in less than 30 minutes and left 20 residents homeless. The blaze was so intense it singed the first fire truck on the scene. Two firefighters suffered burns.
The two-alarm fire began just after 6 p.m. in Apartment 904 of the building at 1021 Ashland Road east of MU. It then quickly spread from the second-floor apartment, engulfing all units in Building Nine within a half hour, Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said. The smoke could be seen from as far away as the northern edge of campus.
The damage to the building and contents were given a preliminary value at $1.25 million, Sapp said. None of the residents was injured.
David Kubiak, 37, who lives in the building next to the one that burned, said he was about to take a bicycle ride when he saw the smoke, called 911 and ran to help get people out.
“The fire spread incredibly fast,” Kubiak said. “I just ran to knock on doors to get people out. I’m just glad we got everybody out. The entire building was on fire in 10 minutes.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, Sapp said.
Two Columbia firefighters suffered non-life-threatening burn injuries, Sapp said. Both were being treated at University Hospital.
The brick-facade and wood-frame apartment building mainly houses students, Sapp said. Ashwood Apartments is owned by Raul Walters Properties,
according to the apartment complex’s Web site. The building was equipped with functioning smoke alarms, Sapp said, but the alarms were not interconnected.
There was no sprinkler system in the apartments.
MU law student Chelsea McClain was one of the residents whose apartment was destroyed.
“I was like, ‘Well, I hope all my stuff doesn’t smell like smoke,’ and the next thing I know, there’s these huge flames,” McClain said.
There were no other injuries reported, fire officials said. Along with the eight units burned, the fire damaged a fire truck from the Ashland Road station and a sport utility vehicle that was parked near the building.
The Columbia Fire Department called on the Boone County Fire Protection District for help because of concerns the fire would spread into the ravine behind the apartments, Sapp said. The district brought a brush truck to the scene, but the fire didn’t spread beyond the apartment building.
All residents have found temporary housing with friends, family or with the American Red Cross, Sapp said. MU’s Department of Residential Life has offered housing in vacant residence hall units. Vouchers were being provided to victims to pick up basic necessities.