ROBERTSON COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - A school that had seen generations of students pass through its doors burned down Thursday morning in Robertson County, and officials don't believe it was an accident.
Around 10:30 on Wednesday night, the fire department received a call for a fire at the Deming School in the center of Mount Olivet. When they arrived, they found the building fully engulfed in flames. At least six other fire companies were called in for back-up to fight back the fire.
Chuck Brown, the Superintendent of Robertson County Schools, said that the Kentucky State Police told him the fire was suspicious, and that an arson investigator would be called in to search for the cause. He speculated that the reason the fire was suspicious may be related to recent incidents of vandalism at the school.
The school was closed down earlier this summer, as new school facility has been built in town. One former student complained that there hadn't been adequate protection and security provided for the vacant building to prevent something like this from happening.
The school was built in 1927 and has seen thousands of students graduate. Many of those students gathered on the road in front of the school to watch it burn. "It's an icon in the community," said Brown. "I've seen a lot of people with tears in their eyes standing here watching it burn."
"It was home, in a lot of ways," said Doug Wright, gesturing at the burning building. Wright graduated from the Deming School in 1975. "We had our proms there, we had our Halloween carnivals, we had the school fairs, and a lot of that was based here."
Brown told us a plan had been in the works to demolish the school and create a greenspace in town. A stone archway over the front door, inscribed with the school's name, had been slated to be saved from the demolition and placed in the new park as a monument to the school that had stood there for decades.
"Obviously this is not the way we wanted to go," Brown said, of the planned demolition now rendered unnecessary by the fire. "It was something more dignified."
"It's a shame it had to come down at all but it's an even worse shame it's coming down the way it is," said Wright.
A Kentucky State Police arson investigator said the debris was too hot to search through on Thursday. He planned to come back on Friday to see if he could collect any evidence about how the fire started.