COLUMBIA — With tears clouding their eyes and the smell of charred wood in the air, they stood in the parking lot.
The uncertainty facing the dozen residents of Charbonneau Apartments – booted by a Thanksgiving evening fire – worried them the most.
Megan Freeman was worried about where she would call home.
Neighbor Michael Mayfield, a widower with several health problems in his past, was trying to figure out how to get the medicines he needs.
His son, Wil, was thinking about his late mother, Paula, and Pauli, his 3-year-old Boston Terrier presumably killed by the fire.
“This is the only place we’ve been able to call home since Mom died,” said Wil Mayfield, whose mother died of ovarian cancer in 2010. “Every picture we have of her is in there.”
The fire, which started before 7 p.m. Thanksgiving night, damaged all eight units of the apartment building on the back portion of the complex just off Greystone Boulevard. City fire officials determined it was caused by improper disposal of fireplace ashes, fire department spokesman Brick Lewis said. It did an estimated $350,000 in damage.
The Mayfields were driving home from Thanksgiving with family in Chapin when a fire department vehicle sped by them on Interstate 126. When the vehicle exited on Greystone in front of them, Wil Mayfield started wondering. When both vehicles turned onto Stoneridge Drive, he could see the flames and knew something was wrong.
Officials at the apartment complex and the Red Cross are working with residents to help them find housing.