Columbia man arrested in connection with fire at vacant house

Friday, May 31, 2013 | 2:27 p.m. CDT; updated 2:42 p.m. CDT, Friday, May 31, 2013

COLUMBIA — The former tenant of a now-vacant house in northeast Columbia was arrested Thursday in connection with a fire that started in the basement of the home May 14. 

Arnold Larson, 41, was arrested on a charge of second-degree arson. His bond had not been set Friday morning. 

The Columbia Police Department worked closely with investigators from the Columbia Fire Departmentto talk to witnesses who reported seeing activity around the house, 2113 Pleasant Way, shortly before the fire was reported, according to a news release from the Columbia Fire Department.

The property is owned by Byron K. Zumwalt of Ashland, according to the Boone County Assessor's website. 

A neighbor told investigators of seeing a previous resident leaving the house before the fire began and identified the subject as Larson, according to the probable cause statement.

When police arrived at Larson's current residence, he admitted to starting the fire, according to the statement. Larson told investigators that while cleaning the basement after he and his family moved out, he spilled motor oil and that was used to start a fire to burn the clutter. 

The single-story, three-bedroom house was vacant when the fire occurred. The damage, caused by smoke throughout the main living areas and minor smoke and heat damage in the basement, was estimated at $6,000, according to a news release. 

It took fire crews more than two hours to extinguish the fire. Three fire engines, a ladder truck and a rescue squad responded.

"Detectives from (the Columbia Police Department) did an outstanding job and were critical in the apprehension and arrest of Arnold Larson," Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Brad Frazier said in a news release.

Supervising editor is Katherine Reed.

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