Columbia officials say two juveniles have been killed in that overnight blaze at an apartment complex near Bernadette. Columbia fire chief Clayton Farr is not releasing the names nor ages of the victims at this time, out of respect to the families.
Chief Farr, Mayor Barbara Buffaloe, Police chief Geoff Jones and city spokeswoman Toni Messina briefed reporters during an emotional Wednesday morning press conference at city hall. Chief Farr credits a quick response from CPD and Columbia firefighters in preventing more deaths.
“We’ve had two families that have suffered the unthinkable loss of two precious lives this morning. I want to thank our fire, our Columbia Police, our EMS partners, as well as our emergency communications partners for all that they did to make this as successful an outcome as was possible. While we did sustain the loss of two lives, we were able to save the lives of 20 other occupants who were in this building,” Chief Farr says.
The fire broke out at about 1:30 am at the Columbia Square apartments on Claudell lane, which is near Best Buy. Chief Farr says there were no working smoke detectors in the apartment, which had an upstairs and a downstairs. An emotional Mayor Buffaloe joined the chief at the press conference, saying their hearts go out to the impacted families. The mayor also encourages residents to donate to the American Red Cross, which is on the scene.
Columbia authorities say one adult and 11 juveniles were inside the apartment when the fire began. Two of the juveniles died, and Chief Farr tells 939 the Eagle that three others sustained injuries. A Columbia Police officer who ran into the burning complex also sustained smoke inhalation and has been treated and released from a hospital.