Roof of Lafferre Hall catches fire

Most of the fire had been extinguished before firefighters arrived.
A Columbia firefighter observes the top of Lafferre Hall from a ladder late Wednesday afternoon. The two-alarm fire was believed to be caused by construction workers using a torch which ignited insulation on the roof the building.

The roof of Lafferre Hall, a building that primarily houses classes of the College of Engineering, caught fire Wednesday afternoon during construction.

Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary Warren said construction crews were cutting either a piece of metal when the heat from the torch caused a fire.

The fire started in a 10- by 20-foot area under the surface of the roof of the new construction to the existing building, a Columbia Fire Department news release stated.

Fire crews upgraded the fire call to two-alarm fire after arriving on the scene. Warren said the department upgraded the call to bring more manpower because of the size of the building. A two-alarm call would bring two additional fire units to the scene.

Fire crews could see smoke when they entered the building but couldn't find the fire. Once they found the fire inside the building, the second alarm was rescinded, Warren said. The second-alarm crew was returned to service before they arrived on the scene.

Construction crews at the building when the fire started attempted to extinguish the fire before the fire department arrived.

Warren said construction crews used fire extinguishers and a pressurized water extinguisher to extinguish the fire and were in the process of removing debris from the burned area when fire crews arrived.

"They had knocked down the fire when fire crews arrived," Warren said.

Fire crews continued to extinguish the fire and check for spot fires in the insulation and other building materials after the construction workers concluded their extinguishing efforts.

While there are still no damage estimates for the fire, Warren said none of the damage was visible from the inside.

"The damage was to the roof only," Warren said.

There were no injuries resulting from the fire and people were allowed back into the building by 5:30 p.m.

The fire is still under investigation.

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