Martin fire latest in string of suspicious fires

Published: Jan. 28, 2020 at 7:23 PM CST
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A building that meant so much to people in the Martin community has been reduced to rubble after a major fire.

Authorities are calling the large fire suspicious. It was around 7:00 p.m. Monday that volunteer fire departments received the call about the old Martin school being on fire. Martin Fire Chief Jeremy Pogue says it was the most intense fire he’s experienced.

"The amount of heat and fire when we got here was surreal,” Pogue says.

A staple in one community reduced to rubble. Only the memories are left from the now smoldering Martin school.

"We were a little behind the 8 ball just because it was well developed by the time we got here,” Pogue says.

The intensity of Monday night's fire was so great that it damaged nearby vehicles and the firefighters were having to use extreme caution.

“Some of the privately owned vehicles sustained some damage. Me and the assistant chief were doing some suppression and our gear started smoking. It was a lot hotter than I expected it to be. The radiant heat was a pretty big factor here,” Pogue says.

At least eight volunteer fire departments responded with about 60 personnel showing up. Fire Coordinator Allan Dover estimates 30 to 60,000 gallons of water onto the structure, which is just over 6,000 square feet. Pogue says it was obvious the building was too far gone to be saved.

“The amount of fire present and amount of heat there, we needed something called a master stream setup and it takes time to do that. It takes time to do that. We did it quickly, but the fire was just too far advanced at that point,” Pogue says.

Firefighters attempted to save buildings nearby.

“The exposures of not only personal belongings, vehicles or houses, but the people themselves, firefighters or others that stopped. It was very intense. I’ve been here 15 years and it’s the hottest one I’ve been to so far,” Pogue says.

The building was built back in the 1920s and has been a number of things over the years including a school and a store. Pogue says it's always difficult responding to something that just about everyone in the area has a personal connection to.

"My grandfather went to school here, played basketball here. He graduated in the early 50s. That’s what it started as. As time progressed there was a store there. A lady that still lives in this community used to cook there. You could go by there and get breakfast or lunch,” Pogue explains. “It’s hard to see that depart from us. You hate to see the building go the way it did.”

Sheriff Billy Sollie says this is one of several suspicious fires in the Collinsville area. He is wanting anyone that saw a suspicious car or person in the area between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 Monday to call the sheriff’s department.

There is also a reward through the State Fire Marshal's Office. That reward is $5,000 for any information leading to someone that is illegally setting fires. Call (601) 359-1061 or 1-888-648-0877.

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