Fire damages Missouri Press building

Sep 8, 2015

By Stanley Schwartz

Managing Editor | Publishers’ Auxiliary

COLUMBIA, MO—After trying to gain entry into the Missouri Press Association office, an unknown person set fire to the roll-cart recycling bins at the back of the building in late August.

MPA Executive Director Doug Crews said the office’s security camera captured images of a young man shaking the back door that opens onto a walkway between the association’s office and a shoe repair store at about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 17.

“He then opened one of the roll carts and lit the newspapers inside on fire,” Crews said. “And then he just walked away.” The fire damaged three of the carts and the brick exterior of the building.

“It could have been much worse,” Crews added. Also damaged by the fire were two gas meters that were adjacent to the roll carts.

A passerby noticed the fire and went into a nearby restaurant to tell the manager, who then called the fire department.

Crews said he turned over the video footage to local police. Fire investigators and police interviewed him the next day, but so far no suspects have been identified.

“The guy was also caught on a security camera at Shakespeare’s Pizza, ordering a pizza,” Crews said. “But he paid in cash, so there’s no credit card receipt.”

The restaurant, a popular hangout for University of Missouri college students is two doors down from the MPA office on Eighth Street.

Crews said the association had not received any threats and he believes it was most likely a random act of vandalism. Two people were arrested in March this year after the association’s video surveillance system caught them spraying graffiti in the same area at the back of the association’s office. Crews does not believe the two incidents are related.

“It’s just what some businesses have to face,” he noted. Work continued normally for the rest of the association’s staff. No one was hurt and the fire was extinguished before it did any major damage.

Crews said he had a company come in and haul the debris away the next day. In his 36 years with MPA, Crews said he’s never heard of someone trying to set the association’s office on fire.