State fire marshal called in to investigate Scott City Head School fire

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
MATT SANDERS ~ The burned out Head School in Scott City Wednesday, after a fire the previous night.

The state marshal’s office has been called on to examine a possible arson that occurred late Tuesday night in Scott City and demolished a historic schoolhouse in the Illmo District.

The Head School, a one-room schoolhouse, burnt nearly to the ground, suffering extensive damage to the structure from the fire, which Scott City Fire chief Jay Cassout said began at the rear of the building.

Firefighters responded to the building, located near the railroad tracks that separate Illmo from the rest of Scott City, around 11 p.m. Tuesday.

The older wood that comprised the building made for a fast burning fire. Firefighters managed to extinguish the flames by about 11:45 p.m. but remained at the scene well into the morning hours. By the time the fire was put out, only the frame and foundation of the building were left, and in some sections, even the frame had burned away.

The nature of the fire was deemed suspicious, but investigators have not determined whether or not accelerants were used, Cassout said.

No evidence linking the fire to those in Cape Girardeau has been found yet, but all possibilities are being investigated, and there’s always the concern that it could be a copycat crime, said Sgt. Barry Hovis, spokesman for the Cape Girardeau Police Department.

The Head School was established in 1858 and closed in 1940. It was located on a family farm east of Scott City until 2003, when the owners of the land the school was on donated the building to the Scott City Historic Preservation Commission. Since the move the commission has worked to restore the schoolhouse close to its original state. Improvements had also been made to the grounds around the schoolhouse.

The Scott City fire followed three fires in Cape Girardeau Tuesday morning, one of them deadly.

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