Ohio Co. fires: Home destroyed, school damaged

Posted by Rich Miller - email

OHIO CO., KY (WFIE) -  A house was destroyed and Horse Branch Elementary School was damaged in two separate fires early Thursday morning.

Classes were canceled at the school.

There is no word on a cause of the fire or extent of the damage but State Trooper Corey King says the fires have a "suspicious nature" since they broke out in different locations at the same time. He says arson investigators will determine if they were intentionally set.

School superintendent Soretta Ralph tells us she received a call at 3:10 a.m.  Flames were visible when firefighters arrived.

"I got a phone call from our emergency office that there was a fire in this area," she told 14 News. "We didn't know at that point whether the fire was at the school, buildings or what."

When they realized the fire was at the school, officials put out the call to parents and staff, classes would be canceled.

Two outbuildings were destroyed, but the school itself had only smoke and heat damage.

About one mile away from the school, though, a firefighter headed to the scene discovered another fire, this one inside a house known around town as "the old Walker home", is now ashes and rubble. It was built back in the 1920s. The man who owns it, Donald Walker, now lives in Illinois, but grew up there, and married his wife at the home. They were planning a trip back for the spring.

"He loved going there and sitting on the front porch," Jeneane Walker recalled by phone.  "Because it had a big open porch, and people would drive by in their cars and they'd wave. A lot of people would stop. A lot of people that you didn't even know would stop."

"It's a shock," said Ralph.  "Anytime you have this kind of thing occur in your community it is shocking, but we'll do everything we can to get school back in session."

A meeting on the fate of the school is scheduled for tonight leaving many in town to speculate that the two are related. We'll have more on that meeting tonight on 14 News at 10.

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