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Winnsboro ISD administration building damaged by fire, officials say cause was electrical

The fire started at about 9 p.m. and was extinguished hours later at about 2 a.m.

WINNSBORO, Texas — As if 2020 was not challenging enough, the Winnsboro Independent School District has to change the way it operates after a fire nearly destroyed its historic administrative building.

“We have quite a mess,” Winnsboro ISD Superintendent Dave Wilcox said Monday afternoon.

A fire burned Sunday night through the building that houses the school district’s administration and the Winnsboro Senior Center. Wilcox said the school district’s business offices of Winnsboro ISD were the most damaged by the fire. 

The head of payroll said she was inside the building Sunday evening preparing for the 2021-22 school year and said she left half an hour before the fire began. She said all the district’s software is cloud-based and the records in the vault were safe.

“It’s a mess in there right now,” Wilcox said after touring the building and speaking with the restoration time. “They’re cleaning it up. We’re trying to figure out what we have and what we lost. We’ll regroup and we’ll move on just like we have the rest of this school year.”

The fire began a little after 9 p.m., and Mayor Camron Wilcox said Reyna Perez, a Winnsboro High School senior, was the one who called 9-1-1. Mayor Wilcox said 13 different fire departments sent 71 firefighters and it took them nearly five hours to stop the burning.

“I want to thank all of them,” Dave Wilcox said. “They came out and did a really good job of stopping the fire. That’s an old building. A lot of dry wood. They stopped it before it took the whole building out.”

Filing cabinets continued to smolder Monday afternoon after they were pulled out of the building, and smoke could be seen coming out of the hole in the roof. However, Dave Wilcox said those would be the easy things to replace. Harder to get back will be the memories from the building, which dates back to 1905, including eight decades as an elementary school.

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“There’s a lot of people that even went to school in this building, you know, a long time ago, so it’s heartbreaking for some of them to have a loss like this,” Wilcox said.

The central office staff will move into the high school for now. The workers had patched up the roof by late afternoon, but it will be a long time before the smell of charred wood is gone and the district can move back in. But Superintendent Wilcox believes his staff will find a way to move on.

“It’s been a crazy year already,” he said, “but we’re gonna get it done.”

Wilcox said the firefighters initially believed that an electrical problem caused the fire, but investigators have not reached a final conclusion.

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