Fire investigation underway at old Baker High - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

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Fire investigation underway at old Baker High

Source: Jay Portalatin Source: Jay Portalatin
Source: Bill Smith Source: Bill Smith
Source: tattootre (viewer submitted photo) Source: tattootre (viewer submitted photo)

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Columbus fire crews worked through Wednesday night to put out the massive fire at the old Baker High School building, but their job doesn't stop there.

Officials are currently trying to determine the cause of the fire.  Friday morning, investigators probed the scene -- looking for clues.

Columbus Fire Marshal Chief Thomas Streeter told News Leader Nine, "Right now we have investigators out canvassing neighbors in the area to see if they saw anything suspicious in the area last night."

Streeter says the cause of the fire is not yet determined because of a concern for safety inside the building, "It's not only the hot spots but the building is not stable at this point. Because of all the fire damage it sustained, we don't want to send anyone in with the possibility of them getting hurt."

Wrecking crews went to the old Baker High School around 3:30 p.m. to start tearing down walls. Only after the structure is deemed safe, can fire investigators go inside.

Streeter added, "Once we get in and really get to see it, we can't determine a cause of the fire. The game plan is to get the building stabilized. We may take some more walls down so we can get inside."

The Muscogee County School District actually still owns the building. They sold all the seats in the auditorium, and we're told all of them were removed last week, meaning nothing of great value was left inside the building. The district was in the process of taking bids for the demolition, which is still scheduled for the next month or two, but they tell us this fire doesn't change their plans. (See previous topic Old Baker High to be torn down)

Columbus Fire assistant chief Jerry Fountain tells News Leader 9 that city officials will begin taking down the south wall of Baker High School Thursday afternoon. 

Crews say the south wall is too volatile to remain standing. A fire investigation will not begin until it is safe for officials to check out the rubble.

No injuries have been reported.

Battalion Chief Les Talley says the fire could take several days to calm down--similar to the Bibb Mill Fire. (See also, Fire engulfs historic Bibb Mill)

Talley also says some of the front of Baker, including the auditorium and some classrooms have been saved. Officials add water and electricity to the building have been cut off for at least a year.

The building served as a high school for many years with the last class graduating in 1991. After that, the building was used as a middle school up until 1999.

News Leader 9 is following this historic story. We'll have the latest information as soon as it becomes available.

If you have any pictures from Wednesday night's fire, please send them to pix@wtvm.com.

©2010 WTVM. All rights reserved.

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