Published 12:00 am Friday, July 17, 2015

Firefighters pour water on Atwell Street side of Batesville Elementary School about 10:30 p.m.

About this time — 10:30 p.m. — fire engines around the burning building began blowing their air horns: Three short blasts to warn any firefighters inside the structure to get out immediately. Firefighters saw walls cracking from the heat and feared collapse.

Smoke pouring from under the office area at BES told of the fire’s advance toward the adjoining two-story brick building.

Firefighters on the College Street side of the school building were near exhaustion about 11 p.m. Aerial water cannon in background is Batesville’s. Senatobia had not yet arrived.

Firefighter uses bench about 11:30 p.m. to break through windows of BES offices to allow water to reach the blazing interior. This was closest threat to the adjoining building at about 12:19 a.m. Saturday. Later a city backhoe pushed away the walkway structure connecting the two buildings. By this time the Senatobia aerial water cannon was pouring its water on the school roof in addition to Batesville’s.

Firefighters fighting the blaze were quickly exhausted in their hot turnout gear on the hot, humid night. Relays were developed to allow rest and cooling off.

Even though by about 12:46 a.m. Saturday, crews had began to relax, most still faced hours of fighting hot spots that threaten to rekindle into a raging fire.

Volunteers began relays of their own — bringing bottled water to thirsty firefighters. At least 10 county fire departments along with Senatobia joined Batesville firefighters to bring the fire under control.

Mt. Olivet volunteers cool off and rehydrate after having fought fire for several hours.

By early Saturday morning, firefighters from throughout Panola County joined by personnel and equipment from the Senatobia Fire Department appear to have controlled a blaze that destroyed the one-story Batesville Elementary School and threatened the adjacent two story brick building.

Deputy Fire Chief Jackie Chapman said it is the biggest fire he had fought in his 34 years with the Batesville Fire Department. Approximately 20 classrooms in the BES one-story building were destroyed by the blaze which was reported about 9:05 p.m. Friday night. BFD spokesman Rip Copeland said that the blaze was difficult to control because it was burning in air space between the ceiling and roof.

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