Wayne Kirk, former Picher resident and long-time business owner, says it saddens him to see what has happened to the community that made him successful for more than 40 years.
Early Saturday morning, the former Lion’s Supply Company was destroyed by fire. Prior to the town’s demise, Kirk operated an auto parts store from that location since the 1960s.
“It was obvious arson,” said Fire Chief Jeff Reeves.
Saturday’s fire is among many cases of arson and vandalism that has plagued the former mining community.
Virtually a ghost town today, the once-thriving towns of Picher and Cardin have been the center of one of the nation’s largest Superfund sites, after reports indicated risk of subsidence due to years of lead and zinc mining.
Picher was in the middle of its second federal buyout when a deadly tornado wiped out the southern part of the town, killing six of its residents and injuring many more.
“All of this has been devastating to the people of Picher,” said Reeves, who himself is a life-long resident. “The arson and vandalism is just one more jab - and it’s done out of pure meaness.”
In December, the state fire marshall was called in to investigate a rash of structure fires that occurred in one night - all suspected arson.
“I just can’t imagine why people do things like this,” said Kirk, who lost many personal items in Saturday’s fire.
Tonight, the town of Picher will be featured in the History Channel’s “Life After People” series.
The new installment, premiering at 9 p.m., is titled “Toxic Revenge” and focuses on the horde of toxins and chemicals unleashed in a world without people.
Deadly gases turn lakes and rivers into acid. And Picher, now considered to be too toxic to be habitable, provides a glimpse into this dim future.