Metro-East News

Elderly woman was alone when fire erupted in Columbia home

Workers begin tearing down Columbia IL home destroyed by fire

Crews began demolishing a home in Columbia that was destroyed by an early morning fire on April 18, 2019.
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Crews began demolishing a home in Columbia that was destroyed by an early morning fire on April 18, 2019.

A fire that broke out about 3 a.m. Thursday in the 7109 block of Summit View Drive claimed the life of an elderly woman.

Brad Roessler, public information officer for the Columbia Fire Department, confirmed the woman, Carol Saylor, 86, was alone at the home when it caught fire and was found in the garage, beneath where the second floor had collapsed.

St. Clair County Coroner Calvin Dye Sr. found Saylor, who resided in a second-floor living space inside the residence, had died of smoke inhalation, according to the Waterloo Republic-Times. She was pronounced dead at the scene at 6:57 a.m., Dye said.

She was the mother-in-law of Joe Koppeis, who owns the home with his wife Patty. The couple was vacationing in Florida at the time of the fire, the Waterloo Republic-Times reported.

Roessler said the fire department received the call about the large blaze at the home at 3 a.m. and when fire personnel arrived on scene, the home was fully engulfed. At 8:25 a.m., fire fighters were still spraying water on the structure, Roessler confirmed.

The fire was so large that multiple fire departments were needed to put out the blaze. There was no fire hydrant in the rural area where the fire occurred, so firefighters had to shuttle water to the location of the fire.

“We had over seven other departments driving a tanker shuttle,” Roessler said.

Firefighters also filled up tanks, dumping the water into portable tanks, Roessler explained. Also, firefighters used water from a large swimming pool in the back yard to help douse the fire, he said.

Waterloo, Prairie DuPont, Smithton, Camp Jackson, Dupo and several other Fire Departments responded to the scene of the fire.

Roessler said the fire remains under investigation but that lightning could be to blame. Columbia Fire Chief Mike Roediger echoed that theory but said the lightning theory isn’t the certain cause. He said the property’s surveillance camera’s footage is currently being looked through for the specific cause of the fire.

Roediger added that getting water to the property was “extremely” difficult due to the home’s location and the lack of a fire hydrant. He said that, plus the size of the home, made for a difficult situation.

An excavation crew began tearing down parts of the house at around 10 a.m. Thursday. According to a the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, which also responded to the fire, the house has been deemed a total loss.

“Neighbors reported hearing loud lightning strikes in the area.,” Roessler said.