Smoke alarm saves Columbia couple and their poodle; 50th wedding anniversary celebration can go on

Saturday, July 14, 2007 | 4:53 p.m. CDT; updated 6:11 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

After a long day spent preparing for their 50th wedding anniversary, a Columbia couple awoke early Saturday morning to blaring smoke alarms. According to a news release from the Columbia Fire Department, a fan had sparked a fire in the basement.

Veryl and Margie Freese fell asleep Friday around 11 p.m. in their house at 1208 Longwell Drive. About an hour and a half later Veryl saw smoke coming from a basement bedroom.

The couple was able to escape with their poodle, Nala, without suffering any personal injuries.

Shortly after the couple called 911, Columbia fire fighters arrived on the scene and found smoke coming from the windows of the two-story house. Approximately 15 minutes after their arrival, firefighters were able to put out the basement blaze.

“They really had a good attitude about the whole thing,” said Battalion Chief Steven Sapp. “They’ve been through 50 years of marriage with ups and downs, and they’re looking at this as another challenge in their life.”

Sapp said had it not been for the working smoke alarms the couple could very well have continued to sleep and suffered from smoke inhalation or from their bedroom collapsing into the basement.

Investigators estimated the fire caused roughly $60,000 in damage to the house and the couple’s personal belongings.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, the rate of deaths caused by fires in homes with working smoke alarms is 51 percent less than the rate for homes without smoke alarms.

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