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Investigation Continues Into Gym Fire, Community Plans To Rebuild
Updated July 20, 2016 7:50 AM | Filed under: Fire
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springville gym 11.jpg

(SPRINGVILLE) - A fire ravaged the 1936 Springville gymnasium Tuesday morning. A cause has yet to be determined.

At 12:52 a.m. a Perry Township Volunteer Fire Department firefighter reported heavy black smoke in the area of the Old Springville Gym.

Soon Perry, Marshall, Oolitic, Shawswick and Indian Creek VFDs responded along with TOPES.

As firefighters arrived there was a loud explosion shooting flames 100 to 150 feet in the air.

Perry VFD Chief Max Peters says it took everyone and more than 100,000 gallons of water to bring the fire. It took firefighters till around 5 a.m. to get a handle on the fire.

Firefighter believe the fire started in the kitchen area but that will be determined after the finding of the state fire marshal was on the scene Tuesday morning. He will return on Monday to investigation more.

"The building was too unstable," Peters says. "The bricks got extremely hot which is a safety hazard which could bring the walls tumbling down."

Hopefully officials will be able to determine a cause on Monday.

Peters says people flocked to the old gym Tuesday morning.

It is unclear whether the gym can be salvaged at all. There are perceptible cracks in some areas of the rock walls, although all four sides remained upright. The roof's beams crashed to the concrete floor and the six rows of wood bleachers on the north side of the gym were burned. Tiny pieces of the glass windows were found several yards from the building.

"The fire that destroyed the old gym caused many tears to be shed, my eyes included. says Bob Phillips, Perry Township and pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Springville.

Not only had the gym become the center of community activities, it had rekindled fond memories of years gone by. It stood as a memorial to all who ever lived in or visited the little community.

"The School Corporation had long ago deeded the gym and it's properties to The Perry Township Trustee," Phillips says.

By that time it had become cost prohibitive to plan any remodeling or even the maintenance to keep it up.

By 1999 it had become so deteriorated that things looked hopeless. At that time the program "Build Indiana" had begun with funding from Lottery revenues.

"We formed a Committee to plan a course of action," Phillips added. "Then, our State Representative Peggy Welch became involved. We drew up plans and plotted our course in a step by step format. With bids received for all the needed repairs and additions, Rep, Welch helped us receive a grant from the Build Indiana funds. The building began, and our little community was up and running with renewed pride in a Historical Landmark that now looked better than it ever did."

All that hard work went up in smoke. Along with items of Springville Boy Scouts Troop 343. They had a large private room upstairs in which there were many projects, awards, and various other possessions stored.

"There was a war monument to all the veterans on the wall and so many other items in the building, so many precious memories gone," Peters added.

It was an emotional Tuesday for the community. While the future of the Springville gym is unclear, there is little doubt how much the building still means to the community. Nearly every community event was centered at the gym.

"We had elderly people with tears streaming down their cheeks kissing the charred bricks," Peters said as a tear streamed down his own cheek. "So many memories were made in that building and now it is gone."

The goal now is to rebuild.

"Today, with sadness in our hearts, and moistened eyes, the plan to form a committee to seek avenues of funding to rebuild has started thanks to Dennis Godsey. To any and all the efforts to do so, I say Go Team Go!" Phillips added. "I extend a sincere 'Thank You' to all the wonderful volunteers in all the departments that responded to the call to Springville. God Bless you all!"

The fire rekindled at 10:38 p.m. Tuesday night, with Perry VFD returning to the scene.

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