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Through a thick haze of billowing smoke, a contingent of firefighters tackled a blaze inside an apartment home Wednesday, July 3.
The fire, which began in a bathroom and quickly soared into the attic sometime before 2 p.m., was extinguished soon after firefighters arrived at the home in the 300 block of Elm Street. Responding firefighters included members of the Lancaster, Indian Land, Bell Town and McDonald Green fire departments.
Lancaster Police Sgt. Brian Small was first on the scene and noticed smoke billowing from the eaves of the home, which he learned was subdivided into three apartments, according to a Lancaster Police Department incident report.
Small then noticed there were residents inside and helped get them outside, the report said.
Lancaster Police Chief Harlean Howard, who arrived at the scene moments later, said Small helped pull a man in a wheelchair out of the home. The resident was not injured, she said.
Officers helped block off the street as firefighters arrived at the scene.
Several firefighters were seen in the front yard donning turnout gear and within minutes two firefighters had scaled a ladder, climbed onto the roof and cut a hole on the top of the building to help release smoke.
After a few minutes, firefighters had successfully extinguished the fire, which began in one of the apartments, the report said.
Once the fire was contained, the homeowner told Lancaster Fire Chief Chuck Small an apartment tenant had been served an eviction notice and had until Friday to leave or be removed, the report said. The homeowner also said the apartment did not have water or power.
After examining the burned apartment, firefighters determined the fire started in the bathroom, in the left-hand corner of a cast iron bathtub and spread up a wall and into the attic, the report said.
“During their investigation, they located a kerosene jug in the corner of the bathroom behind the door,” an officer wrote in the report.
Investigators asked for consent from the tenant to search the apartment and then interviewed her about the fire.
The tenant told officers she got up from her couch, opened her kitchen door and noticed the room was filled with black smoke. She ran outside warned her neighbors of the fire and then called 911, the, report said.
With no power, the woman said she often uses candles to light the home, the report said. She also told officers she uses candles to light up the bathroom and places them on the corner of the bathtub, the report said.
Investigators shared the information with fire officials who said the burn pattern on the wall was consistent with the fire starting in the corner.
“At this time, (firefighters Billy Lloyd and Brian Stogner) dug around in the tub and located a blob of candle wax which did confirm her story about candles being in the bathroom,” an officer wrote in the report.
Based on information gathered by detectives and the city’s arson investigators, the blaze was deemed accidental and the case was closed, the report said.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416