Smoldering cigarette blamed in patio fire

An employee of an apartment complex north of Columbus suffered smoke inhalation while putting out a fire that caused about $5,000 in damages.

D.J. Nelson, maintenance technician at The Arbors at Waters Edge apartments complex, 4060 N. County Road 150W, was treated at the scene by emergency medical technicians from Columbus Regional Hospital, according to a Columbus Fire Department news release.

Nelson was working outside at 3:22 p.m. Tuesday when he smelled smoke. After walking to the back of the nearest building, he saw a second-floor apartment patio was on fire, the release said.

After ensuring that an office worker had called 911, Nelson and his supervisor, John Roberts, returned to the apartment with fire extinguishers, the release said.

While part of the wood deck patio had burned through, Nelson and Roberts used three extinguishers to bring the flames under control by the time first responders arrived, Columbus Fire Department spokesman Capt. Mike Wilson said.

However, firefighters removed vinyl siding to search for smoldering spots, Wilson said.

Firefighters sprayed water on the patio and melted debris that had fallen to the ground, he said.

No firefighters were hurt, and Nelson — who refused transportation to the hospital — returned to work following the incident, Wilson said.

Investigators determined a cigarette left in a plastic container 40 minutes before firefighters arrived was the likely cause. The tenant said he left for work immediately after discarding the cigarette.

Smoking is the leading cause of home fire deaths, claiming about 7,600 lives annually, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Those who smoke cigarettes and cigars should always make sure discarded items are completely extinguished in a noncombustible container, Wilson said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.