Southern Illinois town investigating recent fires as arson

MARISSA (AP) — Authorities in southern Illinois are investigating half a dozen recent fires in the village of Marissa, including one that destroyed a local landmark serving as a museum to the area’s coal mining history.

The blaze gutted the Academy Building Friday night. The building was once a school and later became home to the local historical society and its museum.

Mayor Jerry Cross says it was built in 1891. He tells the Belleville News-Democrat  the building was a “treasure” and housed coal-mining artifacts, as well as information about the school and the town.

About an hour after that blaze, a second fire was discovered a few blocks away at a large storage shed.

Authorities believe four other recent fires at small outbuildings and a home were intentional.