Fire at former Phenix City Head Start building ruled as arson

PHENIX CITY, AL (WTVM) - Residents in the area of Seale Road and 10th Avenue in Phenix City say they're shocked to see a building with so many memories in the community go up in flames.

Fire officials say whoever started the fire at the former Phenix City Head Start did it intentionally.

"It went up in flames and you couldn't see anything but dark smoke," says Phenix City area resident, Bertha Diggs.

Diggs has lived on Seale Road in Phenix City for over 56 years. She's shared countless memories in the area surrounding the former head start child educational building.

"Everybody around here, most of them went because I had two that went to school there," says Diggs.

Less than a week ago, the building went up in flames. Exclusive Sky Alert 9 drone footage showed Phenix City fire crews working to put out the fire. The flames were finally put out over three hours later.

"There are no utilities on the structure, so all accidental causes have pretty much been eliminated," says Phenix City Fire Chief Kristin Kennedy.

The 13,000 square foot building is owned by Phenix City Schools. The building has been vacant for more than 20 years but fire officials say the extent of the damage to the building is severe.

Kennedy says the fire tore through the wooden structure and roofing of the building. Investigators believe whoever set the fire used materials that were already on site.

Thousands of pages from student textbooks can be seen scattered across the property left in charred crumbles from the fire.

"There have been some witnesses that saw people leaving the building before the fire," says Kennedy.

No one was inside the building during the fire and luckily there were no injuries. Fire officials say they have suspects in the case but are not releasing identifying information at this time. Residents say they believe the suspects are juveniles.

"I used to sit here and see them going in and coming out," says Diggs.

Investigators say they'll be releasing more details on those suspects and possible charges soon.

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