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House fire sparked by candle takes man’s life

ABC 17 has learned the name of the victim in a Thursday night house fire in central Columbia.

Family members said Mike Degeare died in the house fire in the 1200 block of Lakeview Avenue. The deadly blaze was caused by a burning candle, according to the Columbia Fire Department.

Assistant Chief Brad Fraizer said several agencies, including the medical examiner’s office, were working to identify the person who died. Fraizer said firefighters found the person inside the home and carried him out the back door. Medical personnel determined he was dead on scene.

Firefighters and police officers arrived less than five minutes after the call came in to find heavy smoke coming from the house, Fraizer said. Eleven fire units were sent to the home. Crews found flames in the room where the man was found and put them out.

“We came outside to see what was happening,” said Jami Pate, who lives near the home. “There was about eight to 10 firetrucks, four or five ambulances and a couple cop cars.”

She said she was sleeping when she heard noises outside and she came out to investigate.

Neighbor Erica Presby said she did not realize there was a fire at first.

“I was out here smoking and I smelled a plastic smell, but I didn’t think anything of it,” Presby said. “We actually thought that someone was burning trash.”

A fire marshal determined a candle started the fire in the living room. There were no working smoke alarms in the home. The damage to the home was estimated at $16,000.

Fraizer said authorities do not know the cause of the victim’s death, but the type of furniture in the house might have played a role.

“We definitely see more plastics in furniture,” he said. “The … heat that’s genterated, is typically higher and they do let off different chemicals that you wouldn’t have seen years ago in comparison. So definitely the material that we’re finding in furniture is going to be a little more toxic as far as smoke goes.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of the story identified the house fire as happening in the 2700 block of Lakeview Avenue. The story also misspelled the name fo the fire victim. The story has been updated to reflect accurate information.

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