Arson inquiry at offices ongoing

Wednesday, May 19, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:01 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 10, 2008

Arson is suspected in a fire that caused extensive damage to the Salem Building on Forum Boulevard early Monday morning.

A preliminary estimate put damage at $325,000. The building houses real estate, dental and legal offices. Columbia fire investigators have determined that the fire was intentionally set and an investigation is ongoing, said Battalion Chief Steven Sapp of the Columbia Fire Department.

Columbia firefighters were dispatched to 2516 Forum Boulevard at 2:22 a.m. after a Columbia police officer reported smoke. Three engines, a ladder and a heavy rescue unit were dispatched from four stations.

The firefighters found heavy smoke from the roof and fire on the second floor and in the attic. About 2:40 a.m. fire crews determined that most of the fire had been extinguished.

“It’s a tribute to the way buildings are built today that they could isolate the fire and contain it,” said Bob Jurgensmeyer, the building’s owner. “The police and fire departments did a super job.”

Three tenants lease office space from Jurgensmeyer. Re/Max Realtor Susan Horak’s upper-level office sustained the majority of the fire damage. Jurgensmeyer said Horak is in the process of moving operations into another of his buildings.

The offices of dentist Kevin Ryan and the Barton law office sustained minor smoke and water damage. The law office remains open. Ryan is taking the week off and intends to return to work Monday, Jurgensmeyer said.

Jurgensmeyer said the space in a fourth office has been rented and is scheduled to be occupied June 1.

“We intend to move them in on time,” Jurgensmeyer said.

Fire investigators are working with detectives from the Columbia Police Department Major Crimes Unit. Fire investigators turned the building over to insurance investigators Tuesday afternoon. The building is insured by Cincinnati Insurance.

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