Holy smoke: Woman trying to drive away squirrels catches building on fire

News-DemocratAugust 20, 2014 

AP GRAPHICS

— A nonlethal solution to squirrels in the walls went awry Wednesday. A smoke bomb -- intended for outdoor use to chase vermin from holes in the lawn -- caused a fire at a business.

The fire occurred at Surya Rakta Wellness, a yoga studio at 1400 East B St.

The woman using the smoke device quickly called 911. Firefighters doused the fire, said Chief Tom Pour of the Belleville Fire Department.

"Fortunately she didn't try fighting it herself," Pour said. "When we pulled the boards, there was a fire. It would have been more severe if she'd first gone for a garden hose."

The woman, who was not identified, could not be reached for comment.

It is the second vermin-caused fire within a couple months, Pour said, referring to an earlier incident involving raccoons.

Pour urged homeowners to carefully use smoke devices only after reading all directions and warnings. The devices are intended for outdoor use only.

Pour specified that the woman was outside and pulled some siding away to allow smoke into the wall. She underestimated the flame, he said, and the building caught fire. According to manufacturer's information online, the products are intended for lawn use.

Pour said a 2-by-5 foot section of siding was removed to expose and extinguish the fire.

There were no injuries, Pour said. East B Street was closed in both directions but reopened by 2:30 p.m., and the hole in the wall was re-covered by 3 p.m.

The studio's Facebook and website had not been updated Wednesday afternoon and reflected that classes had been planned for 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Calls to the yoga studio were not returned.

Contact reporter Mary Cooley at 618-239-2535 or email to mcooley@bnd.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @MaryCooleyBND.

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