Devastating Fire Engulfs former Headstart Building

Many questions remain about exactly what caused a devastating fire Friday morning at a former Headstart building.

Firefighters responded around 2:15 Friday morning to the Old East End Headstart Center on 11th Avenue. Upon arrival they say the entire 400 foot long structure was engulfed in flames.

"It was just flames everywhere."

That's how people in the community describe the fire. Hours after it was first reported, the smell of smoke continued to fill the air, with smoldering embers in plain sight, as firefighters still worked to secure the area.

"There's a lot of hot spots. You've got roof on top of fire. It's going to take a while to get all this off of it," says Battalion Chief Jimmy Stockton with the Meridian Fire Department.

As firefighters continued to hose down the structure, the roadway leading to the center was blocked on both ends. This caused some delays for Headstart bus drivers who were in the area to park in the nearby lot for buses.

"'Is this shocking to you? Yea, because we didn't know it this morning until we got to work," answers Jimmie Brown, a Headstart School Bus Driver.

As with Jimmie Brown, all Headstart employees were to report to work today, because the new East End Headstart Center, which is located just around the corner from the fire, was not affected.

Having destroyed the original East End Headstart building to its base, by mid-morning firefighters say only the outer shell of the newer part of the facility, which was adjacent to the old one, was standing.

With no one hurt and no other structures damaged, an exact cause is still under investigation.

"I heard somebody had got it and they were planning to do something with it, but it's not much they can do with that now," says Marzella Sanders, who lives near the center.

The Old East End Headstart Center had been vacant for a number of years. When we talked to firefighter earlier, they said it was too soon to determine whether the state fire marshal will be called in for the investigation.


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