The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

October 14, 2013

BREAKING: Blaze burns shuttered school gym early Monday

Huntsville, Segars units respond to fire at former Belle Mina school

By Kim West
kwest@athensnews-courier.com

BELLE MINA — An early morning blaze heavily damaged the deteriorating gymnasium at the former Mooresville-Belle Mina Elementary School.

At 1:30 a.m. Monday, emergency officials received a report of heavy smoke rising from the gym at 5711 Mooresville Road. Units from Segars Volunteer Fire Department and Huntsville Fire and Rescue responded with a total of four pumpers and one ladder truck.

Thick yellow hoses provided a steady water supply to more than 15 firefighters as they sprayed the roof from the side and back of the gym.

Small flames flickered in the upper reaches of the gym until fizzling out from the barrage of water, and the grassy area surrounding the building became swampy as water streamed out.

Officials at the scene said the gym, which remained intact, did not have active electrical connections. They said a group of trespassers or a person seeking shelter could have lit the fire to keep warm during the weekend, leaving behind remnants that rekindled.

Segars firefighters said the roof’s metal beams became warped from the heat of the fire and that the gym flooring was completely charred.

Since the cowing roof presented a safety hazard, three Huntsville firefighters scaled a ladder at the back of the gym exterior and cut through a wall with a K-12 rescue saw to allow more water to get into the gym.

Huntsville Fire and Rescue, which has responded to fires in its last nine shifts, cleared the scene at 4:40 a.m. with no reported injuries. The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office roped off the area to discourage trespassing and preserve the site for further inspection.

Segars and Huntsville returned to the scene shortly after 6:30 a.m. after a caller reported seeing flames at the gym.

The Belle Mina property, which covers nearly 7 acres of land and is listed at $659,000, is still owned by Limestone County Schools. The school system closed the elementary school in 1991 due to declining enrollment.

In September, Athens businessman J. Bradley Horner made a $600,000 offer to the Limestone County Board of Education to turn the former school site into a daycare.  School officials said Horner must meet certain requirements by the State Building Commission.