Baker High School: the day before demolition

By Taylor Barnhill  - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Alumni from the old Baker High will say goodbye to their beloved school Monday after a fire swept through the building in May 2011.

For alumni from Baker High School, Sunday was the last day to see the front of the old school in-tact. A fire nine months ago destroyed a good portion of the building and Monday the walls will be coming down.

News Leader Nine was there when the blaze started and we take you back to that night.

Just before 9 o'clock on the night of May 19th, the old Baker High School burst into flames. Columbus fire crews battled the blaze for hours before they could start to figure out what caused it.

"Initially we didn't know. By that being such an old structure, we had vagrants living in there in the past so we didn't know. But we later found it was an intentionally set fire," explained Chief Thomas Streeter with the Columbus Fire Department.

Witnesses say they saw some suspicious behavior the night of the fire. Streeter said, "We know there was a male subject in the area prior to the fire. A short while after that, the subject left in a pick-up truck and that's when residents in the area noticed smoke and flames."

Fire officials have recovered some helpful evidence from the scene, "We sent a test off to the lab and it didn't come back as any accelerant, so we think it was ready combustibles."

But there are still so many unanswered questions about the fire that destroyed the historic high school.

Chief Streeter told News Leader Nine, "Until we are able to get a hold of the subject in that area and talk with him, we are no closer."

Nine months later and officials don't feel any closer to finding the exact cause of the fire. Chief Streeter adds, "We just really want to take our time to make sure we get all the right answers and hopefully to get a conviction."

Portions of Baker High School have already been torn down and Monday morning the front walls will be demolished. News Leader Nine asked: will this construction delay the investigation any more? Streeter responded, "We've taken all our photos, we've gotten people in the area to tell us what they saw so it shouldn't have any effect on it."

The Columbus Fire Department asks residents to think back to May 19th and if they saw anything unusual that may help them put an end to this case call them at (706)653-3500.

The demolition for Baker High School is scheduled for nine o'clock Monday morning.

Copyright 2011 WTVM. All rights reserved.