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Fire destroys abandoned building at former MU research farm

Thursday, November 10, 2011 | 11:41 p.m. CST; updated 10:11 a.m. CST, Friday, November 11, 2011
A fire spits flames into the sky on Sinclair Road at about 9 p.m. Thursday.

COLUMBIA — A fire destroyed a building Thursday night on what was once Sinclair Farm, an MU research facility on Sinclair Road.

The fire, which began at about 8:40 p.m., engulfed the L-shaped building, which was made of metal with a wooden frame, and caused the roof to cave in.

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Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Steven Sapp said by the time firefighters were able to get water, the 100-by-100-by-40 structure was 50 percent destroyed.

Sapp said there was no reason to believe anyone was in the building. He said because the building was consumed by fire and they didn't believe anyone was inside, the department decided early on to take a "defensive exterior tactic." As a result, he said, no firefighters were injured on duty.

Sapp said the cause of the fire was unknown, but because the building did not have utilities, the fire is "somewhat suspicious."

There have been reports of squatters and vandalism in the area, and there were reports of cars leaving the scene Thursday night, but the department has no more information at this point, he said.

The Boone County Fire Protection District assisted the department. Tanker trucks were used in a shuttle relay to draw water from fire hydrants at a nearby subdivision because there were no fire hydrants nearby in the rural area.

At 10:30 p.m., the fire was about 75 percent put out, Sapp said.

There were concerns there might be hazardous material in the building, but Sapp said MU Environmental Health and Safety assured the department that the building was properly decommissioned.

The farm opened in the mid-sixties. The 543-acre facility was used mainly as a research farm. It's work included looking at cancer in pigs and studying epileptic seizures in cattle.

MU closed the farm in September 1989 as a way to reallocate and save money, according to a Columbia Daily Tribune article from the time. If the property was ever sold, the person who donated the land stipulated that the proceeds go toward a home for nurses.

The building, still owned by MU, has been abandoned for about 10 years, Sapp said.


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