Officials, students react to Montgomery magnet school fire

Officials, students react to Montgomery magnet school fire
The fire at Booker T. Washington Magnet High School started early Saturday. Arson has been ruled out.

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - A fire on Saturday morning destroyed part of Booker T. Washington Magnet School's campus.

"They were able to contain it. It didn't spread to any other buildings. It did spread to all three floors, but at least it didn't spread to the other properties," Lt. Jason Cupps, with Montgomery Fire and Rescue, said.

When crews arrived on the scene, the building was already ablaze.

"They saw that initially the fire was on the second floor and it was already burning through the roof," Cupps said.

Cupps called the building a "total loss." After several hours of fighting the blaze, the decision to tear down Building C was made.

"At this point, what they're going to be doing is searching through the debris and looking for spot fires. We're checking the structural integrity of the building to see if it's safe for our firefighters to go in," Cupps said.

Looking on from a nearby parking lot were Megan Myrick and her twin sister Katherine.

"I'm a visual arts student and am a senior and so that's where we keep all of our projects and work there. So, it was the realization that all of my projects and art that I've done over the past four years has just been burned and destroyed," Megan Myrick said.

Building C housed the school's fine arts department. That's where Megan and Katherine spent most of their time.

"That's where we go to everyday, and we spend an hour and a half in there every single day. So, that became our second home. That was our home at school," Megan Myrick said. "I love doing art, and being in an art room where that's what was all around me and being right across from photography where they appreciate the same thing, it's just hard to see all of that gone."

"That's where my classrooms are at and like the more I processed it the more I was like, 'Oh, that's where like all of our artwork is at, that's where everything I've worked for for the past three years is at,'" Katherine Myrick said.

Joining them in the nearby parking lot was their photography teacher Mrs. Emily Thomas.

"It's a little hard. For a place that was so important to so many students to be gone, it was the starting point for so many people's creative paths where they found where they belonged and where they began as artists," Thomas said.

She used to be a student at BTW.

"I'm heartbroken. I was a student at BTW and I helped build the program, and now as a teacher, I grieve for the loss of my students' artwork and that creative space and safe place where they were able to create and make artwork," Thomas said.

Despite the devastation, Thomas is looking forward to recreating her students' artwork and rebuilding Building C.

"This is an opportunity for us to rebuild a school and build it in a way that our students deserve and that our students need," Thomas said. "We loved our building and it functioned and it worked, but it had a lot of problems, too. It didn't reflect what BTW students deserve. So, we hope this is an opportunity or a stepping stone for us to build it bigger and better and really let us be one of the spotlights of MPS."

Many of the students who lost work in the fire are trying to spread the word about the equipment that needs to be replaced:

According to Montgomery's mayor, Todd Strange, MPS is already talking about rebuilding BTW.

"This conversation has been around for several years between the city, the county, as well as the school board. At the end of the day, the school's going to have to make the decision as to what they want to do," Strange said. "We've communicated with Dr. Mackey, Dr. Moore and Dr. Roller about that future. Interestingly, just last week between those three individuals I just talked about, there was this conversation of what the future over the next ten years would be about that particular school."

He said more conversations will be had after the students go back to school.

"There will be obviously some insurance. There's about $4 million that's been in an account for 15 or so years for a performing arts center for B.T.W. and so from that standpoint," Strange said. "As the kids go back to school, they'll get situated, they'll get settled and in the near term some decisions will be made."

A temporary location is currently being set up for the students at Hayneville Road School.

"I'm very impressed, if I can say that, with our staff and how quickly they reacted. The superintendent has already made decisions about what's going to happen and our operations staff is already moving, they're not just talking about it, they are in the process of getting the new building ready for the students so in a week's time we'll have completely moved the school to a different location," Tom Salter, senior communications officer for Montgomery Public Schools, said.

Students at BTW will resume classes on Monday, August 27, at Hayneville Road School.

Copyright 2018 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.