Heavy Fire Engulfs Minnesota School

St. Cloud firefighters spent several hours trying to control the blaze.

June 15--Firefighters were battling an intense blaze early Sunday at Roosevelt Early Childhood Center, 3015 Third St. N.

The large fire drew multiple trucks, ambulances and scores of onlookers, some snapping photos as crews worked. At times flames were visible on both the east and west sides of the building. A thick plume of black smoke hung across much of the Pantown neighborhood.

"Oh my god," neighbor Gwen Kirlen repeated as she watched the firefighters in action. "I looked out the window and this was

going on," she said, gesturing to the scene.

Kirlen lives a few houses east of Roosevelt and said she used to go to the school to enroll her grandchildren.

"It was a nice place to enroll your kids," she said. She added: "This is a beautiful neighborhood."

Bryan Brown, building services and grounds supervisor for St. Cloud schools, was on the scene. He told the Times that the chief thinks the fire was sparked by a lightning strike. He got the initial call -- a burglary alarm -- about 11:40 p.m. Saturday. He soon got a return call indicating it was a fire and he headed over to the school.

Brown said he would stay until the fire was out. It was still going strong about 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Almost 100 children were set to start summer school there on Tuesday. The district will have to find a new place for them, Brown said.

In January 2003, school district officials announced the school was one of three that would close. The same year, administrators announced that early childhood services offered at Washington Early Childhood Center would move to Roosevelt.

The school was built in 1920 and named after Theodore Roosevelt. Right by the school is the Roosevelt Boys & Girls Club.

Copyright 2014 - St. Cloud Times, Minn.