Fire leaves six seeking new home

Thursday, May 16, 2002

A midmorning fire that was likely started by a kitchen appliance that was left on has left six residents at the Oxford House group home on Broadway unhurt but looking for a place to stay.

Resident Charles Hunter said he was asleep in his bed after working a double shift at Thorngate when the fire alarm went off. He ran downstairs, noticed smoke and then went back upstairs for his shirt, shoes and money.

He made it outside without injury. No one else was at home at the time.

Cape Girardeau Fire Department fire marshal Mike Morgan said that the kitchen caught fire at about 10 a.m. While the matter was still under investigation, he said officials think the fire was started by a stove or Fry Daddy that was left on.

"The working smoke detector on the main floor is what got this guy out," Morgan said. "A $10 smoke detector saved his life. If he had been in there much longer, he wouldn't have made it. With the way that fire was advancing, he'd be dead."

Morgan said the kitchen was severely damaged by fire and smoke and the rest of the house was smoke damaged.

Morgan also said Hunter should not have returned upstairs to retrieve personal items after he knew the house was on fire.

"I don't care if you're butt naked," he said. "You should get out."

Hunter said he thought he had time. "I saw the smoke," he said. "When I came back down the stairs, I saw those flames were moving fast."

The home, which is lived in by those trying to get clean from drug and alcohol abuse, is too damaged to live in, Hunter said. At Oxford House, clients share living expenses in an environment that supports them in their recovery efforts.

They will be contacting the Salvation Army for temporary shelter and the Oxford House organization, which is based in Columbia, Mo.

"Other than that, I really have no idea what we're going to do," he said. "We'll just have to try and figure it out."

335-6611, extension 137

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