Early-morning fire damages old HHS gymnasium

Section of Forrest St. closed; crews restoring power to nearby buildings after damage to lines, poles

Early-morning fire damages old HHS gymnasium

From City of Hattiesburg Communications

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Last week, the City of Hattiesburg submitted a grant application for a planning/feasibility study to renovate the old Hattiesburg High School Gymnasium on Front Street.

Whatever the initial plans were, they might have gone up in flames Sunday morning.

Hattiesburg firefighters responded to a call about 2:15 a.m. Sunday about a fire in the 500 block of Front Street.

Upon arrival at 2:19 a.m., they found the long-vacant gymnasium across the street from Hawkins Elementary School on fire.

“The building was very heavy with smoke,” said Hattiesburg Fire Department Battalion Chief Joseph Anderson. “We made entrance at the front doors, went into the front doors. We did a search pattern. We got about halfway, and floors got real spongy.”

“We made an attack on the B-side of the building. We could see flames inside, started hitting that an after a while, we just kept on and kept on until we see where we are at now,” Anderson said.

The gym caught fire quickly due to its age, and the material it’s made out of.

“The building was constructed in the 1930s. Over time, just the different materials put on the gym floor that can act as an accelerant in itself,” said HFD Cheif Danny Wade.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames. No injuries were reported.

“As someone who was on the scene just after 3 a.m., I can’t say enough about the work that our firefighters put in to try and put this out,” said Hattiesburg Mayor Toby Barker.

The Mississippi State Fire Marshal’s office has been contacted to assist with the investigation, and they are expected on scene Monday morning to investigate the cause.

At this time, Forrest Street, between Green Street and the Family Education Center, will be closed while further evaluation is done on the building. Protective fencing has been installed.

Damage from the fire also includes power poles and lines, which has resulted in outages to a handful of nearby buildings. Mississippi Power is currently on scene to reroute and restore power to these affected buildings.

Beginning Monday, Feb. 8, school pick-up and drop-off for the Hattiesburg Public School District will occur on the Green Street side of the Hawkins Elementary campus.

The structure, built in 1937 as a Works Progress Administration project, served as the gymnasium for the old Hattiesburg High School on Main Street.

While a contributing building in the Hub City National Register District, the gymnasium itself is not listed as a Mississippi Landmark.

On Jan. 14, the City of Hattiesburg and the Hattiesburg Public School District met with the Mississippi Department of Archives & History about the potential for renovations.

Tuesday, the Hattiesburg City Council approved a $7,500 grant application for a planning/feasibility study and on Friday, the application was submitted.

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