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Cause of deadly Columbia apartment fire undetermined; possibilities identified

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Fire investigators in Columbia could not fully determine how a deadly apartment blaze that killed two children started in December, according to a report obtained by ABC 17 News.

The report from fire marshals reveals the potential sources investigators looked into after the fire at Columbia Square Townhomes on Claudell Lane. The report classified the cause of the fire as undetermined "based on the physical evidence found at the scene and witness statements provided."

First responders spent hours on the morning of Dec. 14, 2022, fighting the fire at the unit in the 1000 block of Claudell Lane. Seven-year-old J'yneisha Washington and 4-year-old Ta'niyah Pate died in the fire from smoke inhalation, according to an autopsy. They were two of nearly a dozen people at the townhome when the fire started, according to fire officials.

The report said the fire started in a bedroom on the second floor of the townhome. Investigators noted the heaviest charring along the walls of the room near a bed in the room and a window, which the marshal thought helped vent the fire.

The department redacted portions of the report, which ABC 17 News obtained through an open records request, dealing with juvenile information. One of the redactions included what the fire marshal considered a probable source of the fire. The marshal also noted an electrical short in a vacuum cleaner and a lit candle could be sources of the fire.

The fire department had previously discussed missing and non-working smoke detectors in the unit. ABC 17 News Investigates discovered widespread issues with smoke detectors at Columbia Square Townhomes in a city inspection done just months before the fire. Firefighters noted several missing detectors or melted detector bases in their investigation on the second floor of the townhome. A detector present on the first floor did not chirp when pressed.

The marshal said the cord did not come with the detector when they pulled it from the ceiling.

CFD offers free smoke detectors to people in need of one at their homes. The city says people in need of one can call 573.874.7391 to get one.

Article Topic Follows: ABC 17 News Investigates

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Lucas Geisler

Lucas Geisler anchors the 5 p.m. show for ABC 17 News and reports on the latest news around mid-Missouri at 9 and 10 p.m.

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