WILLOUGHBY, Ohio -- Firefighters were busy battling an early morning blaze Tuesday at the Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools Board of Education building in the 37000 block of Ridge Road. The fire sparked around 12:19 a.m., and was burning for hours.
Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools officials held a press conference at 1:30 p.m. today.
Willoughby-Eastlake Superintendent Steve Thompson said Willoughby firefighters arrived to find the building mostly engulfed from the start. The 3-alarm fire also saw firefighters from 19 other departments assist, Thompson said.
Thompson said the building, known as the Chandler-Tucker Estate, is not repairable and fire investigators are still at the scene trying to determine the cause of the fire.
Thompson said the greatest challenge is that the servers for the district Internet and phones were in the basement of the building and water from the fire-fighting efforts filled the basement.
Thompson said school has been canceled for Wednesday (March 15) and the central BOE office and 36 staffers and secretarial support will be moving to another district building -- the School of Innovation at 32500 Chardon Road in Willoughby Hills, which already houses grades 3 through 6.
Thompson said there are 8,600 students in the district.
Willoughby Fire Chief Todd Ungar said two floors of the building were already engulfed when they arrived. He added that the first fire hydrant they tried to use was frozen and they were at first limited to the 500 gallons of water they had on the fire trucks.
School officials say firefighters were inside battling the blaze for approximately 40 minutes before evacuating the structure for safety concerns.
"The second floor of the building had become unstable and firefighters were not able to stay inside," according to a statement from the district.
Firefighters from more than 19 cities were dispatched to assist at the scene.
The fire chief tells WKYC the wintry weather conditions are increasing the difficulty in extinguishing the flames.
No additional information was immediately available.
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