The white building at J.V. Martin School (West Elementary) burned on Sunday night. As of this time at 12:50 a.m. on Monday, firefighters were still on the scene. One photo shows flames coming from the building. The other shows firefighters on the scene. (Photos by Corey Jackson)
By Betsy Finklea
The historic white building (West Elementary School) on the J.V. Martin Campus burned late Sunday night into the early hours on Monday morning.
City of Dillon Fire Chief Keith Bailey said firefighters received the call at about 11:30 p.m., and when they got there one room on the West Cleveland side of the school was fully involved. He said two rooms near the belltower and a small closet were also burning.
Firefighters did an exterior and interior attack and went up the staircase.
The City of Dillon Fire Department received mutual aid from Dillon County Fire Station One. They finished fighting the fire around 4:19 a.m.
Bailey said the fire is suspicious because there are four different origins of the fire none related to the other. He said the City of Dillon Fire Department is investigating.
Police Chief David Lane confirmed that there was an investigation, but is making no further comment at this time.
Lorene Arnette, president of the Dillon Historic Schools Foundation who owns the building, said, “We’re just devastated…heartbroken.”
“We will rise from the ashes,” said Arnette.
She said they were so grateful to the alert and observant police officers who happened to see the fire and the quick action of the fire department.
The building is still standing, but the interior is damaged. She said they were waiting to see if there is any structural damage.
She said the building is not only an important Dillon County asset, but is an important building in the state of South Carolina because it is the the very first two-story masonry school building in the state.