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Early morning blaze’s cause considered accidental

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An early morning fire destroyed a single-story home and Columbus firefighters needed about four hours to get the blaze under control.

Firefighters responded to a 3:43 a.m. call of a structure fire at 72 Cleveland St. after a passerby called 911 after noticing smoke coming from the home. The first engine to arrive reported that the house was fully engulfed with flames, said Capt. Mike Wilson, spokesman for Columbus Fire Department.

An attempt to enter the home was made, but conditions inside prevented an interior attack, Wilson said.

Firefighters deployed the aerial ladder truck to spray water on the home after a portion of the roof collapsed. They got the fire under control at about 7:30 a.m., Wilson said.

Betty Spears, the homeowner, was out of town at the time of the fire, and the other occupant, nephew Dustin Jeffries, was staying with a relative at the time, said fire investigator Matt Noblitt.

Jeffries, 30, said he had lived in the home with his aunt since June 2003.

A relative called Jeffries to inform him the house had caught fire, and he arrived at the scene between 6:30 and 7 a.m., he said.

“The roof was caved in over the living room and my aunt’s bedroom. I just saw a big mess,” he said.

Jeffries talked to Spears on the phone later in the morning.

“She had the same reaction as me, in tears. She was upset but wanted to make sure I was OK,” he said.

The fire started in a corner of the living room where electronic devices were plugged into a strip outlet, Noblitt said. Jeffries said his aunt’s computer and the TV were plugged in there.

The official cause has not been determined, but the fire is considered accidental, Noblitt added.

Smoke detectors were present in the home, Noblitt said.

Damage was estimated at about $80,000 to the building and $30,000 for contents, Noblitt said.

The local chapter of the American Red Cross has been contacted to lend support, Noblitt said. Columbus police and Columbus Regional Hospital emergency medical services assisted at the scene.

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