Residents react to blaze | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | March 8, 2018 5:00 am
Last Updated: March 7, 2018 at 8:59 am
By JULIE HOFF
They kept coming, on foot, in cars and on bicycles: When the firefighters, engines and pumper trucks departed after a four-alarm fire that claimed the old Cottageville Elementary School and gym Tuesday, emotional residents gathered to look at the smoking shell.
Firefighters responded to the blaze shortly after 6:30 a.m. The fire started in the gym and spread to the school building, Cottageville Police Chief Jeffery Cook said. Both buildings on Salley Ackerman Drive have been vacant for years.
Witnesses described a roaring blaze with flames shooting 20 feet in the air, but adjacent buildings housing Town Hall and the police department didn’t ignite. Firefighters remained on scene and fire trucks lined Main Street until about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.
All that remains now are some blackened brick exterior walls, and memories. The schoolhouse was built in 1939 and the gym was erected shortly thereafter.
As dusk fell, dozens of people walked around the site. Most were silent, or spoke in low voices as they greeted neighbors and old friends.
“I went to school here. My mother and aunt went to school here,” one woman said. “It’s so sad.”
Several people filmed the soot-covered rubble behind yards of yellow police tape. Others spoke of taking a commemorative brick or two.
The blaze is being investigated by the State Law Enforcement Division, Mayor Tim Grimsley said.
Meanwhile, town offices are temporarily without water, but remain open. As for cleanup, Grimsley said the town will begin a bid process to get debris safely hauled away.
Municipal equipment was stored in the gym. An early inventory of items destroyed includes holiday decorations, tires, lawn equipment, small generators, police barricades, uniforms, boots and duty belts.