Investigators say foul play involved in building blaze

They are looking for children seen hanging around earlier.
Friday, August 12, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:04 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

A fire that destroyed a building in southwest Columbia on Wednesday night was the result of arson, Columbia fire investigators said Thursday.

Firefighters responded to the fire at a 20- by-30, two-story outbuilding near the corner of Mills Drive and Tremont Court at 9:55 p.m. Using two aerial towers and several hand lines, the fire department was able to bring the fire under control in under 20 minutes.

Lt. Debbie Sorrell said the fire was large and required “a lot of water.”

Damage from the fire was estimated at $20,000 to $30,000. No one was injured in the blaze.

Sorrell said because there is no electricity in the building, investigators believe the fire was the result of arson. Neighbors had reported seeing children ages 10 to 16 hanging around the building, which contained tires. “We’ll be wanting to talk to (the children),” she said.

Sorrell said a local investment group purchased the building a year ago and was planning to demolish the building to develop the land. She said a police officer told her police had come to the location six months to a year ago to ask homeless people who were living there to move on, but she said there did not seem to be anyone living there at the time of the fire.

She said the investigation was ongoing. “We think it’s a neighborhood thing, and we want to find out,” she said.

Anyone with information on the fire is asked to contact the Columbia Fire Department at 874-7556 or CrimeStoppers at 875-8477.

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