Weekend Fire Puts Future of Small Missouri Town in Doubt

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OSCEOLA, Mo. -- The rubble is still smoking two days after a fire destroyed three historic buildings in downtown Osceola, Missouri over the weekend.

Authorities say that an electrical problem in an old hotel, built in 1881, being renovated into apartments sparked the Saturday blaze that destroyed the building, a neighboring bookstore and another vacant storefront.

Officials say that it's up to property owners to clean up the debris left behind by the fire. There is no word on if the properties were insured.

There were no injuries reported in the fire, which some residents say harkens back to a Civil War-era 1861 raid by pro-Union Kansas Jayhawkers led by James Lane that left the town burned to the ground and nine people dead.

"From what I understand the Kansas Jayhawkers burned this town down, like a century ago," said Osceola resident Rodney Wilson. "I kinda figured that we was back a century."

Osceola survived that fire, but some residents say that this weekend's fire might be tougher for a small town like Osceola to recover from in the current economic climate. Firefighters were hampered by water main leaks caused by the demands on the city's water supply system, and what was left behind by the fire cannot be salvaged.

"The problem with a town losing these buildings (is) when you lose an old building, new ones aren't built," said Dustin Gibbs, Osceola Utility supervisor. "If there's a business in one of the buildings that you lose, you lose that business. It hurts a little town."

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