By Floyd Ingram
HOULKA – “Everything is still on ‘go’” Betsy Collums, superintendent of Chickasaw County Schools, said Thursday, one day after a fire destroyed Houlka Attendance Center.
School will open Wednesday, and teachers will be ready for students, she said. While school officials shuffled classrooms, firefighters continued to cool down still-smoldering rubble alongside investigators gathering evidence.
“At this point we plan to move students into existing spaces that we have,” Collums said. “We do not plan to bring in trailers and will not be holding classes off campus.”
The state fire marshal conducted his initial investigation Thursday morning and interviewed workers renovating the school.
“The fire marshal got here about 8 a.m. and we talked to the people who had been working on the building and those who initially responded to the fire,” said Chickasaw County Chief Deputy and County Fire Investigator James Myers. “This has been ruled an accidental fire caused by human error.”
Myers said the state fire marshal is automatically called to investigate any church or school fire.
“The state’s investigation is complete and the state is satisfied that it knows what caused the fire,” said Myers. “The insurance companies, adjusters and the courts will now get involved and determine the rest.”
Firefighters were dispatched at 1:11 p.m. Wednesday and the 14,000-square-foot historic building built in 1935 was destroyed by 4:30 p.m. No injuries were reported.
“We lost nine classrooms, our auditorium and, of course, the content,” said Collums. “The building housed our fifth and sixth grade and our high school, which is seventh through twelfth, also held classes there.”
A computer lab and equipment also was destroyed.
Collums said the district met with its insurance company, Tabb Insurance of Houston, and adjusters from Liberty Mutual were on scene Thursday.
“People have asked what they can do to help and right now we are just thanking them for their concern,” said Collums. “This community will do what it needs to do to rebuild this school.”