Construction work sparks Lafferre Hall fire

The building was evacuated after insulation ignited.
A Columbia firefighter observes the top of Lafferre Hall from a ladder late Wednesday afternoon. The two-alarm fire was believed to be caused by construction workers using a torch which ignited insulation on the roof the building.

Fire crews were called to Lafferre Hall Wednesday afternoon for a two-alarm fire that was likely caused by nearby construction work.

Marty Walker, director of administrative services for the College of Engineering, said the fire was caused by construction crews using a cutting torch to remove pipes between the old building and the new building. Walker said the torches ignited insulation in the roof of the Lafferre Hall, which was built in 1939.

Columbia Fire Department Battalion Chief Gary Warren said he couldn’t confirm the torch was the cause of the fire, but it appears to be the most likely cause.

Walker said the incident wasn’t a full-blown fire.

“It was more of a smoldering than a fire,” Walker said.

Students who were working in the engineering library didn’t know there was a fire. Senior Brad Morrison said he just heard the alarms while in the library and evacuated the building.

Visiting MU graduates Robert and Marcia Healy said they smelled and saw smoke on the second floor near the construction but weren’t able to investigate. They were just told to evacuate the building.

Warren said many details aren’t available about the fire at this time. He said fire crews smelled a strong smoke order when they arrived to the building, but the building’s size and the construction surrounding it made access difficult.

Warren said construction workers used fire extinguishers and pressurized water to try and put out the fire before firefighters arrive.

Warren said fire investigators were still looking into the fire, but that the building would likely be back in use later today because the damage was to the exterior of the building.

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