A Kentucky State Police arson investigator is on the scene of townhouses destroyed during an early morning fire after a body was found in the rubble.
Residents had returned to the Watson Street townhouses this morning looking for salvageable items when the body was discovered, according to sources on the scene.
While law enforcement has not yet released any information, sources say the victim, a female, had left one of the townhouses and was accounted for by emergency personnel. She apparently went back into the burning building at some point.
The Columbia Fire Department was called to the scene just after midnight Sunday morning. The original call came in as a vehicle fire but the fire quickly spread from the vehicle, which was parked in a carport in back of the townhouses, to the building.
After police arrived during the early morning fire, Wayne Harmon, 42, was arrested at the scene and charged with disorderly conduct; possession of a controlled substance, 3rd degree; possession of marijuana; prescription drugs not in the original container; and public intoxication. He was lodged in the Adair County Regional Jail. Harmon was believed to be in the same townhouse when the fire broke out where the body later was found.
As of this report at 3 p.m. Sunday, emergency personnel were still on the scene and traffic on Rice Drive was blocked until the victim’s body could be removed.
Kentucky State Police and Columbia City Police were on the scene, along with the Columbia Fire Department.
ORIGINAL POST 3 a.m. Sunday
Everyone escaped safely but four families lost their homes to fire just after midnight Sunday on Watson Street in Columbia.
The Columbia Fire Department was originally called to the scene for an automobile fire but the fire had spread to the building before emergency services were on the scene.
Drew Hodges, a resident in one of the townhouses, said he looked out and saw a truck parked in a carport on fire. He and his wife Vicki were able to get four children out of the building and call 911.
Vicki went to the other townhouses and knocked on doors and windows to get others awake. Everyone was able to get out before the fire destroyed the building and a row of cars parked behind the building.
City Police Officer Tracy McCarol was one of the first members of emergency personnel on the scene. He brought fire extinguishers expecting to be fighting a fire of a single vehicle but quickly saw that it would take more to stop the destruction. Columbia Fire Department used Ladder One to drop water from above the building. Breeding, Knifley and Taylor fire departments were also called in to assist and other departments were on standby.
Fire crews were still on the scene after 3 a.m. but the fire was under control. More information will be provided in this week’s edition of the Community Voice.