Smoke alarm alerts homeowner to basement fire

Staff Reports

A smoke alarm alerted a homeowner to a basement fire early Saturday morning.

Columbus firefighters were sent to 1540 South Drive at 4:08 a.m. Saturday and found heavy smoke coming from the basement, said Capt. Mike Wilson, Columbus Fire Department spokesman.

Homeowner Matthew Chaille told fire investigators that he was in bed and heard a smoke alarm activate at about 4 a.m., Wilson said.

Chaille said that he could smell the smoke as he searched for the sounding alarm. When he arrived at the basement stairwell, he encountered more smoke rising from the basement, Wilson said.

Chaille told investigators he attempted to enter the basement, but stopped approximately halfway down the stairs. Chaille said that smoke was too thick and he could see flames.

Chaille said he then grabbed a dog and a cat and ran to his neighbors home to call 911. Chaille said that he was unable to find one additional cat that typically sleeps in the basement.

Firefighters attempted to get into the basement but because of heavy smoke and heat and no visibility, they set up a defensive fire attack from the exterior, Wilson said.

The fire continued to burn the contents of the basement and eventually spread to the first level, attic, and roof, Wilson said. During this time, fire burned through the ground floor and eventually caused a structural collapse of a portion of the floor into the basement.

The fire was brought under control by about 6:30 a.m. and firefighters worked for an additional two hours applying water to smoldering debris, Wilson said. To aid in reaching portions of the basement with smoldering hot spots, firefighters cut access holes into the first level flooring and used ladders to reach the basement, Wilson said.

The total scene time of the incident was nearly 10 hours.

Chaille said that he, his wife, and four children have lived in the home for about three years. Chaille said his wife and children were away at a family overnight event at the time of the fire.

The investigation of the cause of the fire in ongoing. Due to the significant damage to the home, the home is considered a complete loss. Damages for structure and contents are estimated at $270,000, Wilson said. Firefighters did not locate the missing cat inside the home, but reported that a cat was discovered outside the home but ran away when firefighters approached.

No injuries were reported. The family is making lodging arrangements.

The Columbus Fire Department reminds residents that working smoke alarms provide early detection of fire and may allow the needed time to safely escape a home or building fire. In addition to working alarms, the Columbus Fire Department recommends that every family create and practice a home fire escape drill.

Agencies that assisted included the Columbus Police Department, Columbus Regional Health EMS, Duke Energy, Vectren Enrgy and Columbus City Utilities.