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houlka fireHOULKA, Miss. (WCBI)- Smoke and ash billow in the air hours after a large blaze destroyed the middle school portion of Houlka Attendance Center Wednesday afternoon.

“It started in a classroom. There has been construction going on, some contractors on scene doing some work. So now we’re going to start interviewing them and kind of narrow it down to see where the fire started,” said Chief Deputy James Meyers with the Chickasaw County Sheriff’s Department.

Firefighters from Chickasaw and Pontotoc battled the blaze for more than an hour.

” The fire actually started in the ceiling. When we got here we had heavy smoke so we couldn’t go in so we had to break the window. The seasoned wood and the people that actually caused the fire, the workers, they said just a little spark dropped on the insulation and it went up just that quick. They had to just run out pretty much,” said Chief Terry Short with the Houlka Fire Department.

The damaged building housed 5th and 6th grade classrooms, a renovated auditorium and a computer lab. Chickasaw County school leaders held an emergency meeting Wednesday afternoon. Superintendent Dr. Betsy Collums says they’ll start school on schedule.

“The principals and I have discussed places we can relocate the classrooms that were in this building to other locations on this campus, said Dr. Collums.

LaTrenda Stephens raced to the scene when she heard the news.

“We could actually see the smoke from where my mother lives. We stepped out and saw black smoke. We’re about 10 miles out,” said Stephens.

For her and her daughter Aniah, who’s now a 3rd grader, it’s a devastating loss.

“I graduated here. You never think about it happening in your small town and there’s a lot of history here. It’s just disbelief,” said Stephens.

” I just feel upset because my brother’s picture was in there. And I’m just upset,” said Aniah.

The State Fire Marshall is working to determine an exact cause of the blaze.

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