Fire Closes Region 8 School

February 27th, 2006 -- Posted at 10:30 P.M. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- A normal day and a normal week started Monday at Palestine-Wheatley Middle School. Students learning, teachers working...and then a sudden fire.

All students and faculty evacuated around 2 P.M. when word spread that the school gym was on fire. Students in the classrooms say it was fairly calm getting out of the building, but their classmates in the gym described a different story.

"They said it was really scary, they were really scared, they were crying and everything, cause you know they were right there," says a Middle School Student.

The fire started in this back corner of the gym with students just steps away. But suprisingly, the fire alarm never sounded.

"It's a sad thing that happened and I just thank God that weren't any kids harmed in the fire," says Gary Caldwell, Parent.

School officials noted that the most important factor was that there were no injuries, with the school housing 185 students and teachers, between 5th and 8th grade.

All made it out of the school building safely...but the evacuation was only the beginning of the battle. Wheatley, Brinkley, Palestine, Forrest City, and even Marion Fire Departments were called to the scene. The amount of damage hasn't completely been assessed, but fire officials say it's not looking so hot.

"It's total in the perspective as far as kids going back to school anytime soon, and in this building what fire and smoke hasn't damaged, we've damaged with water trying to contain the fire," says Rodney Hicks, Wheatley Fire Chief.

Wheatley Police and Fire couldn't stress enough how thankful they were that the surrounding fire crews came to the rescue. But what caused all this mess? That's a question that still remains unanswered.

"We're gonna have the State Fire Marshall here to investigate it and that's really all I can say about it right now," says Dallas Brogdon, Wheatley Police Chief.

School is closed until further notice while officials create a new plan for the students. A temporary location will be announced shortly.