STAFFORD, Kan. -- A massive fire has torn through the former Stafford High School building, leaving little behind. Making the investigation more difficult is that the location where the fire started has collapsed.
It began around 10:00 P.M. when an on-duty officer in the city of Stafford noticed the flames coming from the third floor of the building. Though the fire department was just 50 feet from the school, Stafford crews were not able to get a handle on the fire.
The flame spread very quickly and overwhelmed the 14-man crew at the Stafford Fire Department. Fire crews from across Stafford County and a large aerial truck from Great Bend were called in.
Winds were out of the north at an estimated 30-40 mph, blowing embers and debris south of the building. Those embers sparked 12 grass fires across the city, but no buildings were damaged.
It took over eight hours to put the fire out. The roof and the third and second floors collapsed. Since the fire started on the third flood and that floor no longer exists, any evidence is going to be hard to find.
In 2009, the building was sold to a Texas man who townspeople say was able to buy the school based off of his commitment to invest money into it and use it as a school for Korean immigrants. In the past five years, little was actually done to the school and it was left in ruins even before the fire.
Vandalism and graffiti were a common sight on the walls inside. This is what is leading to the suspicion of arson. The building was without electricity or heating fuel and there were no known people inside. There were no storms in the area, so the fire could also not have been sparked by lightning.
State fire marshals were on the scene Saturday night and Sunday morning investigating, but the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Stafford County appraised the value of the school at $125,000.
Officials say the old Stafford High School is a total loss after a fire that raged through the night, and arson is suspected.
A police officer spotted the fire around 10 p.m. Saturday while on patrol. Officials said every fire crew in Stafford County and one from Great Bend were called in to assist. It took them about eight hours to extinguish the blaze.
The fire started in the library area on the third floor. Police say its likely a case of arson, because the abandoned building had no working utilities and there was no inclement weather in the area at the time.
A damage estimate has yet to be determined, but the building is a total loss. According to insurance documents, it is valued at $160,000.
KAKE's Bryan Ramsdale is in Stafford tracking the story. Watch for updates on KAKE News at 5:30.