MILLEN - Millen's skyline was an orange cloud of smoke Monday night as the old primary school burned to the ground in what officials believe to be a possible arson.
The first calls from witnesses came in around 8 p.m., Mayor King Rocker said.
The school was situated downtown Millen between Millen Baptist and Millen Methodist churches.
Board of Education Chairman Carroll Gay said it is almost certainly a case of arson, as witnesses saw people leaving the scene 10 to 15 minutes before seeing the building blaze up in more than one location.
The L-shaped building that was completed destroyed by the fire was built in 1938, Gay said. He said there were originally three buildings, one even older that did not catch on fire.
The location was used as the primary school for years up until the early nineties, he said, and since that time has remained empty and unused for the most part. There was a period around 2001-2002 when it was used for the Head Start program, he said.
An old lunchroom and auditorium were both nestled on the inside of the L-shaped building, where they remained pretty secure from the flames, Rocker said.
In addition to the Millen Fire Department, Rocker said that all the volunteer departments in the county came to their aid, including 6 departments and 2 or 3 trucks.
Rocker and Carroll both said that this was the worst fire Millen has seen since the fire of Hotel Estelle over a decade ago.
On a short break from working on the fire, Clay Boulineau confirmed to the Statesboro Herald the rumor of a natural gas leak, but it was not at all a threat, he said. They planned to let it burn until it burned off, he said, since it was not hurting anything.
In reference to concern for the surrounding churches and other buildings, Boulineau said water had been put on all the surrounding buildings to keep them cool, and fire fighters felt certain of the fire's containment, where flames had considerably died down by 9:30 p.m.