An early-morning fire on the campus of Mississippi Delta Community college burned through several offices of the administration building, leaving over 50 percent of the structure damaged, and burglary and arson are suspected.
Watch our live interview statement with MDCC President Larry Nabors here
The fire rousted staff and the school’s emergency response team at around 3 a.m. Thursday morning when firefighters and other personnel converged on the campus after being alerted that the Stauffer-Wood Administration Building was ablaze.
State fire marshals were on hand early Thursday morning sifting through the burned-out debris and taking photos but at this point, investigators are not sure who or what caused the fire, but it appears to be arson, because the culprit also took a set of keys to one of the vans and drove it a few miles down the Moorhead-Belzoni Road and allegedly torched it.
According to Reed Abraham, Associate Vice President for College Advancement and Public Relations, whose department was housed in the building, it initially looks like a burglary, possibly vandalism. Video surveillance allegedly shows someone breaking in and rummaging through offices and desks. Abraham said the keys to the van were inside one of the offices.
“It is very, very preliminary, but at this point we do have video footage,” he said.
Abraham said, the school’s emergency response team and staff members were going through video footage to try and piece together what happened and identify suspects. They have footage from cameras inside and outside of the building.
“It takes a good bit of time to go back and replay those,” he said.
The van was recovered and turned over to the sheriff’s department according to Abraham. President Larry Nabors was on hand Thursday morning, surveying the damaged and was already meeting with staff to determine new locations for the ousted personnel. The public relations offices appear to be a total loss.
“Over half of the building is completely burned up,” Abraham said.
The administration building not only houses the public relations offices but also Nabors’ office and other members of the administration. Nabors said the fire would not affect the school’s schedule, classes are still expected to resume on January 2.
“It’s not usual when the public relations staff is the subject of the story, you know,” Abraham said,