Multiple Rusk County fire departments respond to fire in old Gaston School cafeteria

Multiple Rusk County fire departments responded to a fire at the old Gaston School cafeteria building Sunday.
Published: Jan. 23, 2022 at 1:41 PM CST
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RUSK COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - Multiple Rusk County fire departments have responded to a fire in the cafeteria building of the Old Gaston School on State Highway 64.

Michael Searcy with the Rusk County Emergency Management Office said the Henderson Fire Department and the New London and Carlisle volunteer fire departments responded to the fire at about 12:15 p.m. Sunday.

“When they arrived on the scene, they found heavy fire coming from the roof at the rear of the cafeteria building,” Searcy told KLTV’s Bob Hallmark. “They made a quick fire attack, and they knocked the fire down. Currently, we’re in a mop-up situation to ensure that we totally got the fire out.”

Searcy said firefighters are in the process of locating “hot spots” and hosing them down.

The Rusk County OEM spokesman said even though Gaston School’s buildings were made from sturdy materials, other less-sturdy materials were added over the years. He added that could create a potential hazard for firefighters because the weight of refrigeration units could cause fire-damaged wooden roofs to collapse.

A fire destroyed the Gaston school’s gymnasium building in September of 2021, according to a previous East Texas News story.

Searcy said there were suspicious circumstances associated with the previous fire at the old Gaston School. He said that the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office and the Texas State Fire Marshal’s Office have been investigating since last September, adding that although they have some leads, they haven’t identified any suspects.

‘With that being said, we’re going to place some extra scrutiny on this fire,” Searcy said. “Now that we have a county fire marshal, he’ll work with the Rusk County Sheriff’s Office and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.”

At that time, Patrick Dooley, the deputy emergency management coordinator for the Rusk County Office of Emergency Management, said when fire crews arrived at the scene on Sept. 26, 2021, they found the gym building fully engulfed in flames.

By the time the fires were fully extinguished around 7 a.m. that morning, the gymnasium building was a total loss, but the other buildings were largely spared of any significant damage, Dooley said. The buildings are under the ownership of Church Fellowship International, though Dooley said he does not believe the church currently used the gymnasium.

Previous story: Old Gaston School gym destroyed in early Sunday fire

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