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Hannibal Courier - Post - Hannibal, MO
  • Grass fire threatens former school

  • In the history of the Oak Hill School, fire had twice consumed the building. Were it not for the quick response of firefighters, flames might have destroyed the former school for a third time Thursday afternoon.
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  • In the history of the Oak Hill School, fire had twice consumed the building. Were it not for the quick response of firefighters, flames might have destroyed the former school for a third time Thursday afternoon.
    “It got close, yes it did,” said Dean Romig, a firefighter with the Hannibal Rural Fire Protection District (HRFPD).
    As he entered the property, Romig saw the threat to the structure.
    “When I was up to this edge there was a pretty good brush pile there that caught (fire), so I had to deal with that brush pile first,” he said. “By that time New London (fire) was on scene and took care of the other end.”
    In addition to the four firefighters, also at the scene was Bob Sergent, secretary-treasurer for the group of volunteers that has been working for years to fully restore the Oak Hill School.
    “I was going to New London and just saw the smoke,” said Sergent, who estimated the flames came within 25 feet of the building. “I thought we’d better get the fire department.”
    The initial response call was made to the HRFPD at 12:17 p.m. Seven minutes later a mutual aid call was made to New London. A HRFPD brush truck was reportedly rolling to the scene at 12:27 p.m.
    Romig estimated that Thursday’s grass fire consumed a half-acre of land north of the community center.
    “It looked like probably a cigarette butt had lit the fire,” he said.
    Area firefighters have been busy dealing with grass fires in recent weeks.
    “Yes we have, and it’s going to get worse if we don’t get some rain, that’s for sure,” said Romig.
    A follow-up call was made for HRFPD firefighters to return to Oak Hill Road was made at 1:40 p.m. on the report that flames had rekindled. A firefighter was back on scene at 1:43 p.m. At 2:32 p.m. a firefighter reported he was going to get a refill of water. At 3:16 p.m. the firefighter advised 911 he was departing the scene.
     
    Being rebuilt
     
    The building is located just east of old Missouri 79 (Route T) on Oak Hill Road.
    “Three sides have been rebuilt,” said Sergent, noting that the community center is now used once a month for music shows featuring local talent. “This year we plan to do the back and work on the inside, then of course there’s always the roof after that.”
    Page 2 of 2 - In June 1890 William Hezekiah and Amanda Glascock donated the one-acre site three miles away from Lost Holler School, and a one-room school was built, named Oak Hill School. That building was burned by people who reportedly opposed the new location. After the school was rebuilt in 1891, it was burned again.
    “When they built this (current building) they put an armed guard up here. That’s why we still have it,” said Sergent.
    While initially a one-room school, a second room was added in 1932. It remained a functioning school until 1958 when rural schools were being consolidated. According to Sergent, the former school was purchased from the Ralls County school district for $100 and turned it into a community center.
     
    (Bev Darr contributed to this story.)
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