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No working smoke alarms in east Columbia mobile home fire

A fire that destroyed a mobile home in Columbia overnight did not have working smoke alarms at the time of the fire, and according to the city, it was never inspected.

The fire started at 3:17 a.m. Thursday on St. Charles road in east Columbia. Firefighters helped rescue four adults and five children from the fire, some residents crawled out of windows. The cause started with the home’s air conditioning unit.

Fire officials told ABC 17 they don’t know how the family escaped safely without being awakened by a smoke alarm.

“We’re not sure what woke them up because, people when they’re sleeping, their nose shuts off,” said Capt. Lisa Todd with the Columbia Fire Department. “So, the only thing they’ve got is their ears paying attention.”

That’s why smoke alarms are so vital. Todd said the city requires both residential and rental properties in Columbia to have one in each bedroom and outside the bedroom.

Fire officials said this home did not have working fire alarms, and Kari Perkins who lives just four trailers down said her home does not either.

“We have a spot right here that we were told has an electrical smoke detector, but it’s been taken out,” Perkins said. “He told us we could put them back if we wanted or we could just use this battery-powered one over here…which we don’t know if it works. We don’t have a battery for it right now, but we’re going to go get one today because we heard about that fire.”

According to city law, it’s not her responsibility as a renter. The Offices of Neighborhood Services provides information online about the landlord’s responsibility to provide and maintain fire safety equipment.

ABC 17 reached out to George James, the landlord of the property. A woman claiming to be James’ sister answered and said when the family moved into the home in April, there were smoke alarms.

“I personally was in that trailer,” the woman said. “There were smoke detectors in place. Now, if they took them down, or whatever happened to them, there were smoke detectors in when they were moving in.”

The city did confirm with ABC 17 on Thursday that this property has never been inspected. They say James has several other properties that are registered, but this property was not one of them. The city will be looking into this during an investigation.

Two adults had cuts from breaking windows to escape during the fire. An ambulance took one infant to the hospital for possible smoke inhalation. On Thursday, ABC 17 did not know any updates on their condition, but the Red Cross temporarily placed the family in a local motel.

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