Debris surveyed at scene of Brookside on College fire

Monday, May 28, 2012 | 6:37 p.m. CDT; updated 7:09 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Only part of the Brookside on College apartments remains standing Monday after a fire the day before at College Avenue and Walnut Street in downtown Columbia.

*The parking lot behind the Brookside on College complex serves Boone County Family Resources. An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified the agency.

COLUMBIA — A backhoe lifted debris to help crews search for any remaining hot spots amid the rubble of one of the largest fires in city history about 12:30 p.m. Monday.

A few minutes later, as firefighters were leaving, Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Jerry Jenkins declared: “It's out.”

Update from Brookside

Brookside posted the following message Monday evening on its Facebook page:

Update 3

Our construction team and engineers have been working around the clock, and we now have more news to share.

We now believe that 40% of the units will be ready on or shortly after the beginning of school this fall, with the remaining 60% ready for occupancy on October 15. This estimate is dependent on investigators turning over the site for construction to resume in the next few days.

We are touring the temporary housing facility at Stephens tomorrow and will have further details to share on those arrangements shortly thereafter.

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About 31 hours earlier, a blaze so hot that it melted the nearby traffic lights, had ravaged the Brookside on College apartment complex under construction at Walnut Street and College Avenue. Early estimates put the damage at about $7 million.

Neighborhood residents Darrell Branson and Eddie Linzie were sitting on chairs against the side of their home on the other side of Walnut Street, watching firefighters sift through debris.

“What a mess,” Branson said. “They were about to install windows for the lobby and to lay down the concrete, but now it’s all gone.”

Branson and Linzie said they were awakened about 4:40 a.m. Sunday by their neighbors. “I saw the bright yellow on the window, and thought the sun was out. But then I heard people shouting fire, fire, then I realized I should get out,” Linzie said.

Branson said he saw the roof of the apartment building was on fire. “The flames were at least 80 feet in the sky, twice as tall as the building,” he said.

Cater-corner to Branson and Linzie's apartments are several Stephens College residence halls, where some of the displaced tenants planning to move into the new apartment complex in the fall might be living temporarily.

Brookside announced on its Facebook page shortly after 6 p.m. Monday that it estimated 40 percent of the apartments could be salvaged and would be ready by or slightly after the beginning of the fall semester. Brookside said it expects the remaining portions of the student apartments to be ready Oct. 15.

After firefighters left the scene early Monday afternoon, the rubble of the apartments lay undisturbed while a single painter used the area as his subject.

Mark Nanneman, 28, was nowhere near the apartment complex when it caught fire early Sunday morning. A day later, he saw an opportunity to practice his art.

A few weeks ago, Nanneman began experimenting with a painting technique called "en plein air," where a painter paints an outdoor scene in one sitting.

“I’ve been painting along the MKT for a while but now I wanted to try something more challenging with the buildings and rubble,” he said.

With an easel set up with all his paints, Nanneman stood in the Boone County Family Resources parking lot* located behind the site and captured the remnants of the Brookside on College apartments.

Supervising editor is Dan Burley.

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