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“It is a devastating loss.” Fire destroys The Landing in Van Buren; Fire Marshal investigating

Published: Sep. 15, 2021 at 4:44 AM CDT|Updated: Sep. 15, 2021 at 6:39 PM CDT
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VAN BUREN, Mo. (KFVS) - The 40th season for The Landing in Van Buren ended early due to a massive fire on Wednesday, September 15.

The fire destroyed the main building of the family-owned tourist destination along the Current River. This includes lodging, the restaurant and gift shop.

Crews were called to The Landing shortly before 1 a.m.

According to Van Buren Fire Chief Curt Majors, the fire was out of control when crews arrived.

Even with the efforts of firefighters from six departments, Chief Majors said it was just too big to handle.

Photos from viewers show a massive amount of smoke and a large glow of flames at The Landing.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and the State Fire Marshal’s Office has been contacted.

No injuries have been reported.

According to The Landing’s owner Tom Bedell, a few of the rooms were occupied when the fire broke out, but the occupants were able to get out safely.

A Van Buren police officer first on the scene was able to clear the rooms adjacent to the fire. The officer, along with a Carter County Sheriff’s deputy and a Missouri State Highway Patrol trooper, were able to clear the remaining rooms. In a Facebook post, Van Buren Fire and Rescue said their quick action and teamwork saved several lives.

Right now, Bedell said he is waiting to speak with the State Fire Marshal to learn what happened and how to move forward.

“It is a devastating loss,” said Bedell. “It’s going to be a loss to the community. And we don’t know yet what we plan to do, but in some way or another we’re gonna build back and we feel like we’re going to overcome this.”

As many came out to see the damage, many echoed Bedell, saying the fire was devastating and they hoped the family would rebuild their business.

“It’s a big loss,” said Van Buren resident Wilma Allen. “I think there’s a lot of loss of jobs and it’s probably one of the largest employers in Van Buren and so I think it’s very sad that it’s gone.”

This isn’t the first time The Landing has dealt with extensive damage.

The business recovered from the Spring Flood in 2017.

Bedell said they feel resilient and they can make it through this latest trial of destruction.

While they figure out the next step, The Landing will not have float trips or dining for the rest of the year.

The Landing is a popular summertime destination for canoeing, kayaking, tube floating and whitewater rafting on the Current River, which offered lodging and other amenities including their restaurant and gift shop.

During the fall, The Landing is also known to host deer hunters.

It has been a devastating night. Thank you to so many who have reached out. No one was injured and we are all safe, just...

Posted by The Landing - Current River on Wednesday, September 15, 2021

People who live in Van Buren are wondering what’s next for the tourist destination.

“It’s a devastation. It is, it was, a really well-known place and happy place.”

Resident Reagan Friedline was an employee at The Landing who last worked on Monday and found out Wednesday morning she no longer had a job.

“I mean, it’s going to be a pretty big loss to the community,” she said. “And to people who worked here and to people who considered it as a family place to go to. It was great for income. It’s a major deal.”

She said she found out about the fire from a relative.

“My cousin, she sent me a text message at like 1 o’clock in the morning when it first started, and then I didn’t wake up. And then she called me, and I saw the pictures and I said, ‘Oh my God,’ I could not. I thought I was dreaming. I could not believe it,” she said.

Friedline said the job was great for personal income and it helped a lot of people in the community.

“I know most of the kids in the community would come here in the summer and that’s how they would get their job, that’s how they would get experience and everything like that,” she said.

Along with providing jobs, resident Rocky Kingree said it also generated revenue in the community.

“Something else lost here is tax revenue,” he said. “For Carter County, we have a lot of federal ownership of land, which don’t tend to pay taxes to the county government, state government and federal government.”

He said with The Landing being a symbol of Current River, he hoped the business will be rebuilt.

“It’s a staple. Just jobs, taxes, people’s history,” he said. “Out-of-state people’s history. So, it’s a time for people to come together and come to help anyway they can.”

The Landing is considered one of Carter County’s largest employers and a driving force behind its tourism industry. That’s why both city and county leaders called the fire a devastating blow to the region’s economy.

“First of all, I thought of the family, the Bedell’s, and what a pillar of the community they are and how it was going to be impacting them and all the years I’ve known them,” said John Bailiff, a Van Buren alderman. “And then I started thinking about all their employees and they are a huge employer in Carter County and they’re just an asset to this community.”

“They have a lot of impact on the community,” said Ron Keeney, the Carter County presiding commissioner. “What we’re thankful for is that it wasn’t in the middle of the summer night where a lot of people were in the motel and someone could’ve got hurt really bad. I’m very thankful for that.”

Both men said they’re hopeful the owners will be able to rebuild, but they’re not sure that’s possible given the extent of the damage.

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