Columbia apartment destroyed by fire

An apartment was heavily damaged by smoke and fire in Columbia on Wednesday night.

The fire occurred sometime before 7:40 p.m. Wednesday in the upper rear portion of 120 North Main Street. The street was closed from Ace Hardware to Khoury Pharmacy as firefighters worked at the scene. The Columbia Fire Department received assistance from Millstadt. Columbia police and EMS also responded to the fire.

The occupants of the apartment, Eric and Gina Spencer, were not home at the time of the fire and were not injured.

Nearly everything inside the apartment received some type of heat, fire, smoke or water damage, Columbia Assistant Fire Chief Jim Broshears said.

“There’s not too much salvageable in there,” he said.

The fire appears to have originated in the living room area of the apartment by a couch and may have been caused by an ember from a cigarette, Broshears said, who added that the fire may have been smoldering for some time.

“It was pretty hot in there for the firemen,” he said.

Eric Spencer said that when he returned home, he opened the door and smoke came pouring out. He could also see the glow of a fire.

“I lost everything I had in there,” he said.

Another apartment in the upper level of the building, which is owned by Ruby Asselmeier of Sparta, also received some smoke damage. The business operating below the apartments, Conrad Press Inc., only received some minor water damage as a result of the fire, Broshears said.

The fire was knocked down fairly quickly upon firefighter arrival, Broshears said, but firefighters remained on scene until around 9:30 p.m.

The Spencers will be staying with family in the short term, Broshears said.

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Corey Saathoff

Corey is the editor of the Republic-Times. He has worked at the newspaper since 2004, and currently resides in Columbia. He is also the principal singer-songwriter and plays guitar in St. Louis area country-rock band The Trophy Mules.
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