CADILLAC — The investigation continues after a vacant school building caught fire in Cadillac on Tuesday morning.
Cadillac Fire Department was dispatched at 4:30 a.m. to a report of a possible structure fire at the vacant McKinley Elementary School located at 601 E North St., according to a press release.
Once on the scene, firefighters encountered "heavy fire conditions" with flames venting through the roof, the press release said. Firefighters worked to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading throughout the building. Eventually, the fire was contained to one wing of the building before it was extinguished, according to the press release.
As a result of the fire, the majority of the school suffered minor smoke damage and one wing suffered moderate smoke damage. One classroom was severely damaged by fire, according to the press release.
The origin and cause of the fire are currently under investigation, but the Cadillac Police Department is investigating breaking and entering incidents at both Cadillac High School and McKinley Elementary School.
Cadillac Area Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Brown said she received a phone call at about 6 a.m. Tuesday informing her the school building was on fire. Brown also said there was vandalism at the school and it appeared as if someone had entered the building. It is not known if the person or persons involved with vandalism and breaking and entering had anything to do with the fire starting, according to Brown.
"It was the back wing of the elementary and we have been storing furniture and other items in the building. Once we get in and can assess what we lost then we will have more information," she said. "We do know a room full of old library books burned."
She said other damage included the roof caving in on the section of the building where the fire occurred. She also said district officials are hoping to be able to get inside the building Wednesday with their insurance adjuster so they can assess the damage. As of Tuesday, district officials were not granted access to the school pending the conclusion of the investigation.
She also said it is unknown what will happen, but partial or complete demolition of the building are potential options.
McKinley was closed after the 2010-11 school year for various reasons including a budget shortfall and declining enrollment. In total, the district had to cut roughly $1.5 million and spent $413,382 of its reserves to balance the budget that summer.
If anyone has any information related to either incident involving the schools, they are asked to contact the Cadillac Police Department at (231) 775-3491. They also can contact Silent Observer at (231) 779-9215 or 800-528-8234. Tips also may be given to the Silent Observer online at www.casotips.com.