Occupants escape Centralia house fire; cause unknown

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CENTRALIA - A fire that destroyed a Centralia home likely caused by an electrical issue, according to the Centralia Fire Department.

Sgt. Kribbs said Sunday the home was built in the 1800s and the wiring may not have been recently updated.

A husband, wife and visiting grandchildren escaped the Dec. 10 fire.

Residents Pam and Dennis Matthews, who lived in the two-story home on South Jefferson Street saw flames coming from the back side of the house, said Chuck Leake, the battalion chief with the Boone County Fire Protection District.

Centralia Police Officer Clint Baer said fire crews first arrived to the scene around 10 p.m. that night. 

Leake said the Red Cross was assisting the Matthews family.

Leake said firefighters did not enter the home to fight the fire.

"Because of structural collapse prior to us being able to really get here and start fighting the fire, it was determined that this would be a defensive fire," Leake said.

Leake also said because the house is older, there were many pockets where fire could enter.

"We determined that our best bet would be let the fire go ahead and vent through the roof, and then make the attack once we can actually get to it," he said. 

Neighbor Dennis Capps said he saw the fire from his back porch. He said the flames were about four to six feet high off the roof at one point.

Neighbor Katy Schultz said, "The scene was like a carnival, there was so much happening," 

She said the flames looked intense.

"It was awful," she said. "There was no saving the house." 

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to include reactions from neighbors and the latest information.)