Historic Midtown Home Destroyed in Fire, Investigation Underway

By Lindsay Clein , Daniel Shedd | dshedd@kolr10.com

Published 08/06 2014 08:25PM

Updated 08/06 2014 10:24PM

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Firefighters are investigating the cause of a fire after a historic home burst into flames Wednesday afternoon.

Neighbors describe the incident at the home in the 1500 block of N. Jefferson Ave. as a “vibration that shook a home two houses away.”

Firefighters had a busy afternoon battling the billowing smoke and flames in the heat, trying to salvage whatever they could.

Though the three-story abandoned residence is destroyed, no one was found in the rubble.

According to Springfield Fire Department Spokeswoman Cara Erwin, the fire took 50 firefighters and nearly two hours to get under control. A second alarm was called due to the severity of the fire.

As the fire burned its way through the home, neighbors gathered at safe distances to watch.

"Ever since I knew this was happening, my heart has been racing," says Neighbor Mary Jo Greer.  "It’s very disturbing."

"All we heard was three big explosions," says Witness Leanna Hill-White.  "And my mom jumped up out of her walker."

Hill-White saw the dark smoke billowing from the home as it reduced to rubble.

"It started off as a small fire and then it completely engulfed the trees and everything,” she says.

Hill-White was right in front of the home when it burst into flames.

"You could feel every bit of the explosion whenever the fire went off and everything," she says.

“I was two blocks away," says Greer.  "And when we heard the sirens, I looked up to the sky and saw the smoke filling the sky, and we knew instantly it was this home."

Mary Jo Greer watched the home smolder from across the street.  She says there have been problems with the home deteriorating.

"This house has been vacant for about nine months," says Greer. "And living right across the street, we know homeless people have been going in and out of the property."

Greer is part of the Midtown Neighborhood Association, which has been working closely with the city for about a year and a half to figure out what to do with the property.

"There have been people camping in it, robbing it of its elements, things like that," Greer says. "There have been bed rolls, cots, food items, personal items in there-- basically trespassing."

Hoping to save the home because of its historical significance, Greer says watching it burn down was heartbreaking.

"I personally am heart sick about it," she said. "To a lot of us here, it represented over 100 years of craftsmanship and families that lived in it.  Back in its glory days, it was a fabulous, high-end home."

High temperatures kept fire crews out of the home for most of the afternoon.

Greer says the home was built in the 1880s.

Two firefighters were treated at the scene for symptoms of heat exhaustion. No other injuries were reported.

The Springfield Fire Department was assisted by the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District.

An investigation into the cause of the fire is ongoing.

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