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More than $41 million in damage caused by arson in Missouri in 2022


After a deadly fire is put out, the work for fire investigators begins.

A Mexico man was charged with arson and murder following an apartment fire in Mexico, Missouri, that allegedly led to the death of his mother. Fires like this are investigated using a collaborative effort from local fire departments, law enforcement and the state fire marshal.

The most recent numbers from Missouri courts show there were 227 arson charges in the fiscal year 2021. During the past five years, that number has remained fairly consistent. More than $41.6 million in damage was caused by arson in 2022, according to the Missouri State Highway Patrol.

Arson charges from Missouri courts in the past five fiscal years. [Sarah Bono/KMIZ]

A number of tools are used to determine the cause of a fire. Columbia Fire Marshal Michael Bauer said one tool they use: An arson dog.

Tony is the name of the Columbia Fire Department's new arson dog. He can detect accelerants, chemicals used to spread fire.

"He sniffs around, he'll show interest in a spot and that's where we start to collect evidence," Bauer said.

Columbia fire and police departments work closely. CPD has trained fire investigators that may get called in to help determine the cause of a fire.

"They work on the criminal side. Or if we need to pull warrants, they help us a lot with that," Baur said. "Otherwise, if we call them to the scene they look around a dig with us sometimes."

Gale Blomenkamp, assistant chief with the Boone County Fire Protection District, said it's not difficult to tell when a fire was started on purpose. However, it's not the job of the fire department to determine if there was any criminal intent.

"We don't come out and say this is an arson fire," Blomenkamp said. "'Incendiary' is that you intentionally set that fire. 'Arson' is a legal term that is used in the courts and for charging people."

The Columbia Fire Department will host a public demonstration of Tony's ability to detect accelerants at 10 a.m. Friday, Feb. 3 at the department's administration building at 201 Orr St., according to a press release from the city.

Article Topic Follows: Arson
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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.


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