Homeless by Choice and by Chance
It's what the Columbia Fire Department calls a 100% loss. Now, many of the people who were living in the eight apartments are without a permanent home. Earlier this morning, investigators began what will certainly be a difficult task in determining the true cause of this fire. When firefighters first arrived last night, they said they couldn't believe the scene.
"In this particular case, seasoned firefighters with 20 years of experience were very surprised at how explosive and how quickly this fire accelerated," said Columbia Battalion Fire Chief Steve Sapp.
The smoke from this fire could be seen for miles. Thankfully, despite the tragedy here and a total loss, one of the residents that lived here is not without a home tonight. But his new home is not what you'd expect.
"Would you like to donate to Habitat for Humanity?" MU student Jim Buell asks a passerby.
You might say it's a coincidence, as Buell is the President of MU's Habitat for Humanity. He's also one of the 20 people that saw his home go up in smoke and flames. He's focused on helping build homes for others. But now, he needs a home for himself.
"That's all i think it is, it's just a coincidence, i think it's a funny coincidence. It's definitely interesting," Buell said.
Even more interesting is where Buell is living now. He's sleeping in a cardboard box this week on the MU campus to raise money for Habitat, which is an event that was planned before the fire.
"I thought, how ironic it was that I chose to be homeless this week, and suddenly I really am homeless," Buell said.
His friends can't believe it either.
"The only word I can use to describe it is optimistic because he lost everything, and if I lost everything I don't know what I'd do," said MU student Lauren Aston.
"I literally have everything I own in this box right now. That's all that's left, I guess," Buell said.
Buell will continue to live in boxes through Friday evening. After that, he says he's going to do a lot of moving around as those other 19 people will do as well. He says he has no idea where his next permanent home will be.