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Firefighters release the cause of Walnut Street apartment fire in Springfield

Published: Dec. 2, 2021 at 4:59 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2021 at 6:26 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Firefighters ruled faulty electrical wiring as the cause of a large fire on the first floor of apartments on historic Walnut Street in Springfield.

Firefighters responded to the fire around 4 p.m. Wednesday near Walnut and John Q. Hammons Parkway.

The large Victorian-style home is divided into apartments called Walnut Manor Apartments. The home is split into three levels.

Firefighters say the fire advanced throughout the top floor and the attic space. The size of the structure made it difficult. Firefighters knocked the fire down after an hour. Viewers say they could see the black smoke for miles.

Investigators say there are no injuries. Firefighters inspected the home in 2019. They say smoke alarms were going off at the time of the fire.

“Those are big beautiful houses with lots of style and character and it’s a sad loss for the city to lose them,” said John Sellars, the Executive Director of Springfield’s History Museum on the Square and an expert on the area’s history.

“Walnut Street was an elite area for people to live in Springfield during the early days,” Sellars explained. “Originally the most elegant houses were along St. Louis Street and then as the city continued to grow (and businesses replaced the homes on St. Louis) it went one-block south to Walnut. So all those houses are from around the turn of the 20th century and they’re the last remnants of what our original downtown looked like. The surprising thing about the one that burned is that for some reason, maybe because it was significantly larger than most of them, it had been an apartment building since the 1920′s.”

The Walnut Street District was named to the National Historical Register of Places in 1985 with most of the homes built between 1870 and 1940.

“But we’ve lost a huge amount of it,” Sellars said. “It’s in the neighborhood of 90-150 houses through there that have been taken out. Like on Elm Street, they built (Missouri State’s) fraternity and sorority houses and things like that. It’s a tremendous piece of our history that we lose a little bit every time something like this happens.”

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