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Fire marshal: Homeless person’s warming fire started Noodles and Company blaze

Columbia fire department investigators concluded the fire that destroyed the Noodles and Company restaurant on 9th Street in downtown Columbia in mid-March was started by a homeless person’s warming fire too close to the structure.

The fire department released its investigative report Friday morning.

Fire Marshal Steve Riggs reported that upon arrival at the fire just after 7 a.m. on a Sunday, he observed a small metal barrel with burned debris and ash where a warming fire had been used in an area at the northeast corner of the structure. The drum of the barrel was about one foot from the side of the building.

Firefighters themselves discovered the fire after leaving a previous call in the area. They smelled smoke and decided to investigate. Captain Dave Haney said he found the structure on fire and observed an area near the back of the structure near the origin of the fire where “he thought it looked like an area someone may have been using to sleep,” according to the report.

A restaurant employee told investigators that she closed the restaurant at 2 a.m. and all employes were gone by 3:30 a.m. She said she was aware of people living behind the building and that she did not approve of them living there. She said she received a security alert at 7 a.m. on the morning of the fire but ignored it because it happens frequently.

In conclusion, Riggs said the fire was started outside the northeast corner of the building by a “subject negligently starting a warming fire too close to the structure.” The fire spread to the exterior of the structure and burned its way to the interior, causing significant fire damage. The fire was classified as incendiary.


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