Light­ning strike causes fire at SouthArk

Fire crews bat­tled blaze at 113-year old his­toric build­ing well into Satur­day

El Dorado News-Times - - Front Page - By Ha­ley Smith Staff Writer

A fire broke out on the roof of the ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing at South Arkansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege’s west cam­pus late Fri­day night.

The 113-year-old build­ing, known as the 1905 Ju­nior Col­lege Build­ing on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places, caught fire af­ter what has been pre­sumed to be a light­ning strike hit the roof around 10:30 p.m. as se­vere thun­der­storms moved through the area. The El Do­rado Fire Depart­ment ar­rived on scene at 10:45 p.m. and spent the en­tire night, and well into Satur­day, fight­ing to ex­tin­guish it.

“We had a real prob­lem with this fire be­cause it is such an old build­ing. The at­tic is over 12 feet tall and we are hav­ing is­sues reach­ing the roof,” said As­sis­tant Chief and Fire Mar­shall Ja­son Evans. “Not to men­tion the three tor­nado warn­ings and the se­vere thun­der­storm warn­ings that hap­pened through the night. The men had to lower the lad­der and take shel­ter in the trucks while un­der these warn­ings.”

The build­ing was unoc­cu­pied at the time of the blaze and no one was hurt.

Doug Fer­rell, a night se­cu­rity worker for the Mur­phy Arts Dis­trict, said he was mak­ing his rounds when he heard a large boom.

“It was so strong, it knocked him back­wards into the wall from the force,” said Lacey Fer­rell, Doug Fer­rell’s wife. “He looked to­wards the boom and saw the af­ter im­age of the light­ning strike. He as­sumed that it had missed the build­ing un­til he saw the smoke com­ing off of it an hour later.”

Ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from the col­lege, staff have be­gun the process of re­group­ing and as­sess­ing next steps, but also are thank­ful for all the emer­gency re­spon­ders and com­mu­nity has done so far.

“We greatly ap­pre­ci­ate the dili­gence and ded­i­ca­tion of the lo­cal fire­fight­ers, who have worked tire­lessly to save this im­por­tant struc­ture,” said SouthArk pres­i­dent Dr. Bar­bara Jones. “We also ap­pre­ci­ate the many mem­bers of our com­mu­nity who have ex­pressed their con­cern about the sit­u­a­tion, and their sup­port for the col­lege.”

Jones also went on to say that, as of Satur­day, classes will be moved and staff will know when classes will com­mence once the fire is put out.

“Luck­ily, very few classes are taught in this build­ing, it’s mostly of­fices. I hope we can have classes like nor­mal Mon­day,” Jones said.

On­go­ing up­dates, in­clud­ing the re­lo­ca­tion of of­fices and classes, will be pro­vided through the col­lege’s Facebook page.

The col­lege will be work­ing with a re­cov­ery firm af­ter the smoke clears to sal­vage what they can of the build­ing.

The fire forced can­cel­la­tion of both ACT test­ing and the first South Arkansas Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val, both of which were sched­uled to be held on cam­pus Satur­day.

The fire was con­tained by Satur­day evening. Dam­age asse­ments are on­go­ing.

Pho­tos by Ter­rance Arm­stard/News-Times

Fire: The smol­der­ing roof of the South Arkansas Com­mu­nity Col­lege Ad­min­is­ra­tion Build­ing can be seen as El Do­rado fire­fight­ers work to put out a lin­ger­ing fire that be­gan dur­ing Fri­day night's storms.

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