Multiple Livingston Parish & neighboring firefighters remained on scene of a fire at Live Oak Jr. High school in Watson fighting hotspots till 6:25pm when everyone was finally able to clear the scene.
Nearly eight hours after the initial fire broke out, firefighters continued battling hotspots.
The first call into the fire department was at 9:50am with officials saying the gym caught on fire. The fire was officially extinguished at 12:02pm but hotspots continued for hours.
“It was like a Cajun microwave so it just trapped all the heat. It made it very challenging to actually get to the fire because of how the building is built,” said District 4 Fire Chief James Wascom.
The chief said there were multiple layers of the building and the roof they had to break through to get into the building. Because of all those layers though, he said the building trapped the heat.
“We had the first unit on scene in a minute and half who confirmed the fire. The gym is a total loss but there were three adjacent buildings to the gym that we were able to save,” said Chief Wascom.
Because it is still summer break, no kids were at the school. Staff would most likely have been limited as well since staff is off on Fridays during the summer.
The exact cause of the fire is unknown at this time and there are no reported injuries. Chief Wascom said his department’s investigator remains on scene and is assisting the Fire Marshal’s Office to determine the cause.
Chief Wascom said they’re awaiting some records from the Livingston Parish School Board to help determine the cause of the fire. Plus, he’s been in contact with the National Weather Service who confirmed there was a lot of lightning in the area at the time of the fire.
Officials said residents in the area may experience low water pressure & possibly discolored water due to the amount of strain on the water system.
Chief Wascom stressed a huge thank you to the men & women of the Livingston Parish Fire Districts 4 & 5, Central Fire, District 2 Pine Grove Fire, Tangipahoa Parish Fire District #1, & East Side Fire for their help on scene. He added a special thanks to Livingston Parish Fire District 2 & Baton Rouge Fire for covering district 4’s area as they battled the fire at the school. Thank you as well to Acadian Ambulance, DEMCO & Livingston Parish Public Schools.
“With all the partners coming in to assist, they did not have access to our radios. That’s where St. George Fire came in and made sure that we were all able to communicate with each other on the radio. It would have been a complete mess had we not all been able to communicate. We also had some off-duty St. George firefighters who helped in pump operations and fighting the fire,” said Chief Wascom.
But Chief Wascom said he’s beyond overwhelmed with the amount of support he received today.
“Livingston Parish comes together for each other and we saw that firsthand again today. Sheriff Ard sent his deputies with drones and we were able to get the drone over the building to find exactly where the fire was and get to it. He also sent trustees from the jail to help us on scene put hoses back and anything else we needed,” said Chief Wascom.
“Oak Point sent sandwich trays to ensure everyone ate out there. Despite this heat, none of those firefighters left or quit fighting the fire. In fact, one of our firefighter was flying back from Salt Lake City and as soon as he landed, he texted us and said he was picking up pizzas for everyone on scene and then headed to us to help and he is a volunteer firefighter with District 4,” said Chief Wascom proudly. “I’ll tell you that we have the best firefighters in the world. I will brag on my firefighters. We all did one hell of a job today and that was a very challenging fire.”
“Our primary dispatcher today was phenomenal and handled this so well. She had assistance from several other dispatchers helping her,” said Chief Wascom.