A vagrant trying to keep warm apparently caused a fire that did more than $80,000 worth of damage to an unoccupied north Columbia house, a city fire official said Sunday.
"It's going to be a total loss," said Columbia Deputy Fire Chief Aubrey Jenkins. "When we got there, fire was coming through the roof."
No one was hurt in the pre-dawn Sunday fire at 921 Ashley St., Jenkins said.
Neighbors told firefighters later that vagrants had been using the vacant house - it had no furniture and the power was not turned on - for shelter recently, Jenkins said.
"It was a fairly new house too," Jenkins said.
No one was in the house when firefighters arrived about 6:20 a.m., and no one who might have started the fire was found, Jenkins said.
The fire was called in to 911 by county ambulance workers who were driving nearby and noticed a glow in the sky. Investigating, they spotted the fire, Jenkins said.
The house is located about one-half mile north of Columbia College, between Fairfield Road and North Main Street.
- John Monk