Fire breaks out in Booker T. Washington Building; no injuries
A fire of undetermined cause broke out at the Booker T. Washington building Friday, (Jan. 29), forcing the evacuation of 50 students and employees.
Columbia Fire Department officials said the blaze began at 10:46 a.m. and was extinguished at 11:46 a.m. Officials said the fire was contained to a storage closet on the second level of the building.
Law Enforcement and Safety Director Ernie Ellis said the fire is being investigated, but there is no reason to suspect anything suspicious at this time. Damage estimates have not been determined.
The historic building, constructed in 1955 and measuring 36,162 square feet, houses TRIO Programs offices and classrooms for theater and dance. Officials were not certain when the building would reopen.
The building is part a three-building complex, formerly Booker T. Washington High School, that was purchased by the university from Richland County School District One in 1974. The oldest building on the site, built in 1916 and facing on Marion Street, was razed because of prohibitive restoration costs. University officials worked with Booker T. Washington High School alumni on the wording for a plaque erected on the block to commemorate the site’s significance as the first high school in South Carolina for black Americans.