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      Bed bugs to blame for Econo Lodge Fire

      The Jefferson City Fire Department revealed Thursday that a fire at the Jefferson City Econo Lodge started because staff there were trying to exterminate bed bugs with a propane-based heater.

      Thursday, a burned mattress and some other debris were all that remained of the room's interior.

      Although several rooms suffered damage, the fire was mostly contained to one room since the walls are made of concrete.

      However, desk clerk Jason Thomas said using a propane heater to get rid of bed bugs is an industry standard.

      "That's standard practice among many of the hotels," Thomas said. "We take any report of bed bugs very seriously. Whether there is a problem or not, we take it very seriously. We shut down the room, we do a thorough search through it."

      Thomas said the discovery of bed bugs in one of their rooms was an isolated incident. "We get a report like this maybe once or twice a year at most," Thomas said. "It's very rare for us. But when it does happen, we take it serously because we know how quickly something like that can spread."

      Kent Marsh of Aces Pest Solutions said last year, he approached Jefferson City Econo Lodge owner Sam Patel about the problem, but that his services were turned down. "I think he was in the frame of mind that he wanted to do it himself," Marsh said.

      "If you're trying to self re-mediate with heat, you could catch yourself on fire, your house, your belongings," Marsh said. "It takes proper equipment, proper training."

      Thomas said after the fire, they will likely hire an outside professional to investigate if any bed bugs remain.

      According to the Cole County Health Department, they received three reports of bed bugs at Econo Lodge over the past two years, two of which were founded.

      Marsh said destroying the bugs is a science. He said the bugs can be found in bed frames and headboards, but also anywhere in a home or an apartment.

      "The problem is going to get worse. It's not going away. It's gotten this bad, in the United States we're seeing extreme amount of populations, 500% growth rates," Marsh said.

      Marsh said the bugs can multiply into the tens of thousands within 120 days. He said if you see them, call a professional immediately.