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Pike-Lincoln Tech fire cause officially unknown in Eolia

Posted on Monday, December 12, 2011 at 12:17 am

Firefighters work hard to put out the blaze.

By Dave Moller/Louisiana Press-Journal

The blaze which destroyed the main building of the Pike-Lincoln Technical Center in Eolia on Friday, Dec. 2 was so intense the Missouri State Fire Marshal’s office could not find a cause.

“The official cause is undetermined,” said Lincoln County Fire District Fire Marshall Barry Nuss on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

“The fire damage was too great to determine whether it was accidental or incendiary, but no foul play is suspected,” Nuss said. “An electrical short was found but we don’t know if it caused, or was caused by the fire.”

Fire investigators had to lift and sift the ruins with heavy equipment before state fire investigators could safely get in to view the damage on Monday, Dec. 5, Nuss said.

Meanwhile most tech center classes will resume Friday, Dec. 9 at the vacant Clopton Middle School on Hwy. WW next to Clopton High.

Tech center Director Krista Flowers said Dec. 2 that firefighters informed her the building’s welding shop was “engulfed in flames,” when they arrived.

The fire was spotted about 6:15 p.m. and 125 firefighters and 40 engines from all over Pike and Lincoln counties responded.

Two large ladder engines from Lincoln County shot water onto the roof of the structure, part of which eventually collapsed.

Fire engines got water from the tall blue water tower on Hwy. NN near Bowling Green at one point. Firefighters also used two large portable water reservoirs at the scene to keep dousing the blaze.

The fire quickly spread into the attic of the 32,000 square-foot metal building, according to Clopton R-III Schools Superintendent Mark Harvey, who presides over the tech center as well.

The ceiling area of the building continued to pour out smoke as the firefighters battled the blaze. Strong winds fueled the fire and spread thick, white, acid smoke out in a large plume above the building.

Firefighters initially attacked the inside of the flaming structure, but were forced to withdraw when the ceiling became compromised.

No one was inside of the building or injured, Flowers said at the scene. Several tech faculty and former students were among the firefighters who doused the blaze, Flowers added.

“We don’t have a true figure yet of the cost,” Harvey said. However, he estimated the loss of equipment and the building itself would easily be several million dollars. The building and its contents appear to be a total loss but that has yet to be officially determined, Harvey said. Insurance adjusters were on the fire scene on Friday night.

One major concern is damage to the geothermal wells used to heat and cool the buildings at the Eolia site, Harvey said. The new and untouched diesel and auto tech center next door to the main building utilizes the system.

Read the rest of the story in the December 2 issue of The Vandalia Leader.