Investigators think fire that ripped through a condemned bowling alley in Shelbina is suspicious. KHQA's Rajah Maples spoke with the Shelbina's assistant fire chief about what happened, as well as an eyewitness who first spotted the blaze.
Cameron Christoffer left his place of employment to run an errand at about 1:30 on Thursday afternoon. But the smell of smoke stopped him in his tracks.
He said, "I was leaving the shop, and I usually cut through the alley. I smelled smoke. I saw smoking coming out of the bottom windows."
Christoffer walked back into the shop to dial 911, then stood outside with co-workers until the fire department arrived.
Christoffer said, "We were standing here, and the big front window, there was a big popping noise, and then it shattered and busted out. We yelled at some kids to get back inside."
And that was good advice, considering the historic building began to collapse last fall. Then, earlier this month, a wall gave way.
Assistant fire chief Allan Wilt said the building was slated to be demolished, and that electricity to the building was shut off several months ago. He also said the building was too unstable for firefighters to walk in to put out the hot spots.
Wilt said, "We're trying to knock the walls in to make it safer."
Rajah asks, "do you suspect arson?"
Wilt answered, "I would consider it suspicious, yes."
Firefighters were able to contain the fire to keep it from spreading to other buildings. No one was hurt.
You might recall the city of Shelbina was awarded $210,000 earlier this month to demolish the former bowling alley.
The state grant also included the demolition of another deteriorating building, formally known as Hoot's Tavern.