Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

May 29, 2013

Arson suspected in museum fire

Bill Grimes Daily News
Effingham Daily News

---- — ALTAMONT — Local police and state fire investigators are exploring potential motives for a small fire at the Altamont Living Museum.

Chief Jon Becker of the Altamont Fire Protection District said the suspected arsonous blaze apparently burned itself out shortly after ignition. Becker said he was called to the scene Monday to investigate possible causes.

The chief said shortly after arrival, he called Altamont police and the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office to conduct a more thorough investigation.

“The police were notified because there appeared to be two points of origin,” Becker said.

The chief said he noticed an active gas leak upon arriving at the scene Monday. It is not known, he said, whether the leak is related to the fire.

Becker said fire damage was limited to a small area inside a doorway.

“It didn’t do much damage,” the chief said. “The fire put itself out very quickly.”

Becker said the facility should be cleared for use once investigators finish their work.

The Living Museum is a performance center that was developed a number of years ago after the old Presbyterian Church shut its doors. It is perhaps best known for its Tuesday night bluegrass shows, but is used for a number of community events.

Terry White, executive director of Altamont Living Museum, Ltd., said the museum might have caught a break when the fire burned itself out.

“The damage was minor, but it could have been catastrophic,” he said.

White said the fire appears to have been intentionally set in conjunction with a burglary during which a small amount of cash was taken.

“It’s absolutely suspicious,” he said. “There was a burglary and the fire was set as part of that activity.”

While tonight’s scheduled bluegrass jam has been canceled, White said the jams will likely resume next Tuesday.

Bill Grimes can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, or bill.grimes@effinghamdailynews.com.