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Suspected arson destroys old Stafford high school

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, March 16, 2014, at 8:37 p.m.

The old high school in Stafford is a total loss after a fire engulfed the empty building Saturday night, Stafford police said.

The fire is being investigated as an arson.

“We’re calling it suspicious,” said Doug Brown, Stafford chief of police and emergency manager for Stafford County. “We’re getting lots of information.”

No one was hurt in the blaze.

A police officer on patrol Saturday night spotted a major fire coming out of the building’s third floor about 10 p.m. and called for help, Brown said. At one point, about 50 emergency personnel from the city of Stafford, Stafford County and Great Bend were on the scene, he said.

The wind sent embers flying, starting up to a dozen more fires in a two-block area south of the old school, Brown said.

“Mother Nature was not kind to us last night,” Brown said Sunday afternoon.

The former high school, which was more than 90 years old, closed in the late 1990s when a new school opened, he said. The building is now owned by a man in Texas who had planned to open a school for Vietnamese children in the building, Brown said.

With an absentee owner, the abandoned building had been broken into multiple times, Brown said.

“It’s been a real problem for us,” he said. “Now it’s even more of one.”

In the aftermath of the fire, the building’s roof, doors and many of the windows are gone and walls are leaning, he said.

“It’s very hazardous,” Brown said.

The city will have to have it declared as a hazardous structure.

Reach Molly McMillin at 316-269-6708 or mmcmillin@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @mmcmillin.

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