Area Firefighters Converge on Latham to Help with Fire at School

The main Latham school building as seen through a window after the Wednesday morning fire destroyed the building collapsing the roof and second level floor.

The main Latham school building as seen through a window after the Wednesday morning fire destroyed the building collapsing the roof and second level floor. Photo by David Wilson.

An early morning fire left the Latham R-V School devastated and the community in shock.

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The sun rises on a devastated Latham R-V School building Wednesday, Dec. 15. Six fire departments and districts responded to the fire which was reported about 3 a.m. No cause has been determined at this time.

According to firefighters on the scene a neighbor woke up just before 3 a.m., saw the school was in flames and began making phone calls.

The pagers went off at 3:01 a.m. according to Tipton firefighter Scott Clifford, formerly of Latham, and firefighters converged on the small town located on Route E a few miles south of its intersection with Highway 50.

Eventually firefighters from six departments and districts were called to the scene.

Those helping with the fire included California Rural, Fortuna, Tipton, Versailles Rural and Moreau Fire. The ladder truck of California City Fire Department was also called out.

According to firefighters on the scene, the fire fighting efforts were hampered by the lack of availability of sufficient water for the pumpers. As a result, tanker trucks made several treks to Fortuna for water to bring to the scene of the fire at the Latham school.

As the sun rose behind the clouds, the destruction was obvious, with the main or old brick part of the school building totally destroyed. Only part of the walls still stand. The office area and gymnasium sustained heavy smoke and water damage but fire damage was limited. The annexes on the east part remained intact although they were full of acrid smoke.

Several commented the loss was like losing a family member. Dean Irey spoke of the long connection he and his family have had with the Latham School.

School has been cancelled for the more than 60 students, kindergarten through eighth grade, at least for the rest of the week.

Administrator - Principal Tanya Brown said she doesn't know what the district will do.

"The School Board will have to decide," she said.

Indications are that an emergency meeting of the Latham R-V School Board will be called very soon.

Several individuals from the State Fire Marshall's Office were on the scene, but ventured no opinion as to the cause of the fire.

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