By Floyd Ingram
HOULKA – Firefighters responded to a blaze that engulfed Houlka Attendance Center on Wednesday afternoon.
Several departments responded to the scene. At one point, flames could be seen shooting 50 to 60 feet in the air, with smoke visible from Highway 15, more than two miles away. No injuries have been reported.
The cause of the fire is unknown. Betsy Collums, superintendent of Houlka Schools, said no staff or children were in the building when the blaze broke out, only workers who were renovating windows.
Several residents stood nearby watching firefighters from Houlka, Houston, Okolona and Beckham battle the fire. By 2:20 p.m., the smoke had begun turning white, indicating the fire was being brought under control.
The school’s roof has collapsed, and the auditorium is destroyed.
The amount of water being used by fire units was stressing Houlka’s water supply, so more water was being brought in as firefighters tried to keep the fire from spreading to the nearby office building and the high school building.
Houlka Attendance Center, which was built in 1935, has four classrooms and houses fifth- and sixth-graders as well as some junior high students.
Collums said an emergency meeting will be held to determine where to move students when the new school year begins Aug. 6.
“I graduated from this building, and my parents did, too,” said Shelly Collums, a Chickasaw County School Trustee. “We lost the building, but we didn’t lose the memories. Houlka will overcome this. We will rebuild.”