July 10, 2008

Electrical Issue Caused School Fire

By Melissa M. Scallan, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Jul. 10--GULFPORT -- State, local and federal officials have determined an electrical problem caused a fire Tuesday that damaged 24 classrooms at Lizana Elementary School.

The Harrison County Sheriff's Department, the state Fire Marshal's Office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives were at the school Wednesday investigating.

"They conducted a thorough investigation and found nothing of a suspicious nature," said George Mixon, fire coordinator for Harrison County. "We determined that there was an electrical problem that started in one of the classrooms that started the fire."

The Harrison County School Board held a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to give Superintendent Henry Arledge authority to hire contractors to repair the damage. Arledge said he hopes repairs will be complete by Aug. 7, the first day of school.

Two classrooms sustained the heaviest damage, but the others in that wing all had fire, water or smoke damage. The cafeteria, library and administration offices were also damaged.

But Arledge said it could have been worse.

"Had it happened at 1 or 2 in the morning, it would have been really bad," he said. "I feel real comfortable that we can get it back in operation by the start of school."

Mixon said everything will have to be cleaned, including floors, ceilings, books and doors. In addition, parts of the roof were damaged, and workers will have to check gas lines and the electrical system.

Arledge said he didn't know exactly how much damage was done, but he estimated the cost would be between $500,000 and $1 million.

Gulfport firefighters assist Lizana and Saucier volunteer fire departments and Harrison County Fire Service in fighting a fire at Lizana Elementary School on Tuesday evening.

Harrison County Fire Coordinator George Mixon works Tuesday's fire at Lizana Elementary School.

American Red Cross volunteer Rosemary Pursell offers a cold bottle of water to Lizana Volunteer Firefighters Gary Gilliland, right, and Carol Sherrell, far left, and Harrison County Fire Service Firefighter Brandon DeCair as they fight a fire at Lizana Elementary School on Tuesday evening.


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