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      Fire that damaged 12 apartments ruled accidental

      Chief Aubrey Jenkins says accidental discarding of smoking material led to the fire at Stone Ridge Apartments.

      COLUMBIA (WACH) - Columbia Fire officials have ruled an early morning apartment fire that occurred Wednesday accidental.

      Chief Aubrey Jenkins says accidental discarding of smoking material led to the fire at Stone Ridge Apartments on Watermark Place in Columbia.

      Two people were taken to a local hospital and twelve apartments were damaged, according to Jenkins. Damages are estimated at $272,000.

      Authorities believe strong winds were a fire's extension.

      Jenkins is reminding the community that nationally, smoking is the number one cause of preventable home fire deaths when a cause has been determined.

      Tips for those who smoke or those who live with a smoker:

      - Smokers should smoke outside and use ashtrays with a wide, stable base that won??t tip over. - Always make sure cigarettes and ashes are completely out. - Never toss hot cigarette butts or ashes in the trash.- Soak cigarette butts and ashes in water before throwing them away. - Chairs and sofas burn fast so never put ashtrays on them and check for cigarettes under cushions if people have been smoking in your home. - If you are drowsy or falling asleep.- Install smoke alarms on every level of your home, test them once a month and change the batteries at least twice a year- Make and practice a home fire escape plan