By Tara Vreeland, News On 6
BEGGS, OK -- Fire destroyed a rural Okmulgee County school district's building Friday morning. It happened at the Twin Hills School near Beggs.
The fire started around 7:00 Friday morning. Firefighters used ladder trucks to try to get above the flames, but the smoke was so thick, the top of one ladder seemed to disappear.
On the ground, firefighters sprayed water into classroom windows.
Several area fire departments filled holding tanks with water to make sure enough was on hand, but the historic building is a total loss.
The Twin Hills community was one month shy of celebrating the school's 100th year.
Robert Pinkston, Twin Hills Fire Chief, said the school is the heart and soul of the community.
A skeleton of a building smolders where the century of history once stood.
"It's devastating. I've been here 13 years. Mr. Pinkston's been here 50 years. This is his home, our home," said Julie White, Twin Hills teacher.
Firefighters, faculty and staff watched as the school, which many of them attended as students, is lost to the flames.
"The cafeteria people and one of the teachers were down here this morning and they saw the fire and called in the fire department," said Cornwell Clifford, Twin Hills custodian.
"We were overwhelmed from the word, ‘Go,'" said Pinkston.
Fire crews responded from Twin Hills, Beggs, Morris, Okmulgee and Glenpool.
"Water supply in rural Oklahoma is something that's a problem and we do what we call a tanker shuttle, so we had as many as 10 trucks running shuttles for 3 1/2 to 5 miles to our pumpers," said Pinkston.
Fire Chief Robert Pinkston is a former student. His father is the superintendent and principal of the Twin Hills School. His son is in the 8th grade.
No students were in the building and luckily, no one was injured in the fire. The only loss was the building, which held 100 years worth of memories.
"My classroom is gone. Everything is gone in this building," said White. "I save everything -- grade books for the last 13 years, all my kids have a wall of fame with all my kids' pictures. It's all gone."
Material items: computers, photos, books, burned to ashes, but the spirit of the Twin Hills community has not been destroyed by the flames.
"But we'll rebuild, keep going. We've been here for over 100 years starting in March, so we'll just rebuild and keep going," said Clifford.
"We'll put her all back together and go on. That's part of Oklahoma," said Pinkston.
State Fire Marshalls may not know the cause of the fire until Monday. Students are out of school for their spring break. They have several three-day weekends in a row instead of one long break.
The boys' basketball team from Twin Hills was scheduled to play in the Division II bracket of the ORES State Basketball Tournament in Earlsboro High School tonight.
The principal and superintendent, Bob Pinkston, told The News On 6 the team will play the game as scheduled.
Twin Hills meets Moffet School at 7:30 p.m.