by: Emily Manley
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Missouri State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating what caused a state government building in the state’s capital city to burn down late Monday night.
Division chief for the Jefferson City Fire Department Jason Turner said Tuesday the building, which housed a portion of the state’s Department of Social Services (DSS) and Office of Administration’s Information Technology Services Division (ITSD) for DSS, is a total loss.
“When the first companies arrived on the scene, they immediately reported heavy fire,” Turner said Tuesday morning. “We had early reports from state officials that some equipment was inside that building that could produce some toxic fumes.”
The governor’s office released Tuesday that roughly 100 employees work in the building. Turner said the call came in just before 9 p.m. for a large structure fire at 1621 E. Elm St. Luckily, the wind was blowing in the right direction.
“It was pushing a lot of smoke and everything towards the highway, up and out of the way, so there wasn’t any danger to the neighborhoods here close to the incident,” Turner said.
Firefighters were on scene overnight and into Tuesday due to the size of the fire. Turner said there were six units with the Jefferson City Fire Department, including 25 firefighters along with two emergency service personnel with Cole County, Capitol Police, and Jefferson City Police Department on the scene.
“A lot of interior walls are still fine, they are unharmed, they aren’t affected by the fire so there’s potential that some of the equipment may not be damaged, though it may possibly have water damage,” Turner said.
The state leases the 18,000 square foot building. One of the owners, Bernard Groner was at the scene Monday morning and said since the facility was built in the 1970s, the state has been renting the space. He said he was at home when he got the call about the fire.
“I didn’t think too much of it, so I called my maintenance guy and told him to go down there and I thought maybe it was a wastebasket or something small,” Groner said. “Fire was coming out of the roof probably 50 to 100 feet tall.”
Groner said less than two months ago, a new roof was put on the facility.
“It’s a sad situation the way it looks,” Groner said. “We’re just going to have to doze it down and haul it off and it’s just totaled.”
Groner said he isn’t sure if he and his partners will rebuild.
“The cost of construction is really high right now, so I don’t know where we stand,” Groner said. “At this time, we don’t have any tenants because it would take a long time and they will have to get spread out.”
The governor said in a statement Tuesday state operations and services will continue.
“First and foremost, we are happy to report that no state team member, first responder, or citizen was hurt as a result of this fire,” Gov. Mike Parson said.
“It is important for Missourians to know that state operations and services will continue uninterrupted thanks to our dedicated team members across state government who are stepping up to assist their teammates at DSS and ITSD.”
The Office of Administration is currently working to relocate employees along with replacing equipment destroyed by the fire.
“The well-being of our state team members who have been impacted during this incident remains our number one concern,” Acting Director for the Office of Administration Ken Zellers said. “Overall state operations have not been hindered, but please keep our team members in your thoughts as we work through this challenge together.”
Turner said no one was inside the building when the fire started and no first responders were hurting during the incident.
Acting Director for DSS said Tuesday those impacted by the fire will be provided resources such as personal health and wellbeing. “We are incredibly relieved that no one was injured during last night’s fire,” Knodell said.
“Material items and equipment can be replaced, but our team is invaluable. We will continue to work closely with those who were impacted to make sure they have the resources and support they need to not only continue serving Missouri citizens, but also to take care of their personal health and wellbeing at this time.”
The Governor’s Office said a contractor was on sight Tuesday to recover and dispose of state equipment. The State Fire Marshal will inspect the damage and will submit a report to the Parson’s office.
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