Fire Damages Jr. ROTC Building

March 27, 2007 - Posted at 5:58 p.m. CDT

POPLAR BLUFF, MO -- Around 4:00 a.m. Monday morning, the Poplar Bluff Fire Department was called to the high school to put out a fire in the Jr. ROTC modular classroom.  After further investigation, police are calling the blaze arson.

Over 100 Poplar Bluff students participate in the Jr. ROTC program.  However those students who are learning how to be better citizens are being taught a tough lesson after a fire severely damaged their classroom.

"To have someone who would show that little regard for others is to come in and wittingly destroy it's really pretty sad in reality," said Major Greg Crites.

The fire is believed to have started when someone piled trash into a can then intentionally propped it up against this door to catch the building on fire. While nothing significant was destroyed the students of the Jr. ROTC are taking this attack personally.

"The cadets are very angry by it and they are very upset about this because this is their home away from home," said Major Crites.

Luckily a bread delivery man drove by a few minutes after the fire was started and alerted the fire department. The school is thankful the fire didn't spread to nearby buildings but Superintendent Ernie Lawson is worried because this isn't the first fire of the school year.

"Last September one was set in our kitchen and it was pretty similar to this fire in the amount of damage it did," commented Lawson.

No one was ever charged for the September blaze and police haven't determined if the two fires are connected.

"Lighting is a problem on this side of the campus so we'll probably try to do something with them to get more patrols, better lighting and maybe patrol ourselves," said Lawson.

With the cleanup and salvage effort underway, Major Crites is trying to make the negative situation into a positive for the cadets.

"We adapt and we overcome and I believe that is an important lesson for people to know," said Crites.

While having a damaged classroom is an inconvenience the Jr. ROTC isn't going to let the fire discourage the learning.

The fire is now being further investigated by both the Poplar Bluff and Missouri state fire marshals office.