Fire destroys school building at Union Grove
by PHILLIP WILLIAMS
May 19, 2013 | 796 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fire caused by lightning destroyed the Union Grove Independent School District’s technology center Thursday night.

Some seven area fire departments responded to the blaze at the frame building, which housed office space for three information/technology employees, and was utilized for computer-related inventory and storage, said School Supt. Brian Gray. Students did not use the facility, he said.

Although the fully-insured structure and contents were “a total loss,” no other school facilities were damaged and nobody was in the building, Gray said Friday. The school will modify its long-range plan in order to build a permanent technology center, he said.

Firefighters “did an admirable job” of battling the blaze, but a storm with winds of 30-40 miles per hour hindered their efforts at the site on Union Grove Road and flames engulfed the facility “pretty quickly,” Gray said.

One of the school district’s 78 video cameras, which were installed to heighten security, captured lightning striking the building at 6:56 p.m., he noted.

While the center had been occupied earlier in the day, Gray said, “At no time was anybody in danger. It (the fire) was after school. Everybody was home.”

The school district has space to house the information/technology workers until the district settles with the insurance company and modifies its long-range plan, the superintendent said.

The building destroyed Thursday, once a three-bedroom home, had been occupied by the school for about a year and a half, Gray said. It was on 12 acres which UGISD purchased for a possible site for a middle school, he added.

“I actually received a phone call from one of my students shortly after 7 (p.m.) saying the building was smoking,” Gray said. The student, who was passing by the structure, is friends with one of Gray’s sons, and called the son’s cell phone to reach the superintendent.

Gray said the school contacted fire departments and that he reached the scene, which is west of his office, as quickly as possible.

Fire departments responding included Gladewater, Gilmer, East Mountain, West Mountain, Sabine, Big Sandy and White Oak, he said. He also praised responses of the Gladewater Police Department and Upshur County Sheriff’s Office.

Firefighters were in the mop-up stages of the operation by about 9:30 p.m., Gray said.

“The bright side is, it’s just a structure . . . It’s just equipment” that was destroyed, he told The Mirror Friday. “All of my staff, all of my students, are safe, and at the end of the day, that’s the main thing.”

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