Arson is suspected in the blaze that gutted Stafford's former high school building Saturday night.
Arson is suspected in the blaze that gutted Stafford’s former high school building Saturday night.
Fire crews were paged out just after 10 p.m., Saturday when a Stafford police officer spotted flames in the upstairs window of the abandoned building located across the street from the fire station.
Crews were dispatched from Stafford, Hudson and St. John initially, but shortly into the blaze an all call went out to any County firefighters that were available to respond. An aerial ladder truck was dispatched out of Great Bend to help with the three-story structure.
“We were overwhelmed by it,” said Police Chief and Emergency Management director Doug Brown. “We couldn’t fight the fire from the inside, it was just too dangerous.”
Brown said the strong winds carried embers across the southern part of the town sparking at least a dozen grass fires including one at Chief Brown’s home.
“We were just overwhelmed very quickly,” he said.
The fire is believed to have started in the upper floors of the building, and as it burned the floors began collapsing onto the lower levels.
Water canons from the county’s larger trucks sprayed water up the side and through the upper windows of the building. A ladder truck dispatched form Great Bend shot water through the windows with a remote nozzle on the end of the extendable ladder.
Brown was one of the many town residents that graduated from the school before it was vacated around 2000.
Brown stated the fire is under investigation, but he believes arson was probably the cause.
“We’ve had kids breaking into the building over the years,” he said. “There were no utilities connected to it that might have sparked a fire so I suspect it was started by someone.”
The former high school has been the site of vandals. Stolen bicycles were recently found stored in the building.
The fire has been turned over to the fire marshal for investigation.