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Fire at former McReynolds School in South Pittsburg

On Friday, fire crews in South Pittsburg worked to save what was left of the former McReynolds High School building on North Holly Avenue in South Pittsburg.

McReynolds School as seen prior to 1965’s fire… (Photo: South Pittsburg Historic Preservation Society, Inc.)

McReynolds was an all-black school during the time of segregation. The school’s gymnasium is all that’s left of the building after a fire consumed the main part of the building in 1963.

Students that attended the school prior to desegregation are reported to have attended class following the fire in the gym.

Another blaze in the summer of 1965 along with desegregation is what ended the school’s run, with students then going to attend other area schools following its closure for the start of the 1965-1966 school year.

 

When firefighters arrived at the scene, they saw large flames coming from the building. They had to wait for the fire to weaken before they could start attacking it.

South Pittsburg Fire Chief Corey Comstock says the exterior walls started to fall because they had cracks in them, so they stayed back and tried to protect the surroundings and keep the fire from spreading.

No injuries were reported as a result of the fire.

The remaining structure has been mostly empty ever since the school officially closed in 1966, having been used most recently by the city’s public works department for storage and city officials say there’s been no power or lighting turned on for the building for many years.

This most recent fire is just the latest the building has fallen victim to over the years. A fire earlier happened earlier this year at the building that re-ignited the following day after being put-out, and another happened just over a year ago, also on a Friday afternoon, the building caught fire in what was suspected as an arson.

People who live nearby say they are frustrated that these fires keep happening to what remains of the historic building and are worried about the future of the property citing concerns over the loss of the historic structure but also the safety of those who might try to explore the building.

For now, fire crews have placed caution tape around the structure to keep people out as the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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