THOMASVILLE, N.C. — For the second day in a row, firefighters had to return to the old Kern Street School to fight a smoke and a small fire in the abandoned building.
FOX8 saw many people stopping by the damaged building on Friday, watching part of the city’s history crumble away.
Through collapsed windows and caution tape, people like Kernelle Brock stood back and reminisced about their connection to the old Kern Street School.
“This is a historical school,” he said. “It’s kind of sad to see something like this happen. I had a lot of fun days as a little kid, playing out here.”
Brock was one of more than a dozen people who stopped the site of the wreckage on the first day of the new year, finding burnt pages from textbooks, and the smell of smoker lingering in the air.
The building was also a sanctuary of faith.
“I was so upset, Lord Jesus, there’s nothing I could do,” Pastor Faye Thomas said. “That was on my heart. It’s been falling through disrepair through fire.”
Thomas is the pastor of Pneuma Pentecostal Church. The church owns and used the space for services.
Since 2016, Thomasville City Officials have tried to contact the financial owner of the property, but he failed to respond to their notices.
Since then, taxpayers have paid to keep the grass cut and cover the cost of boarding up windows.
At one point, the bills started coming to Thomas.
“I wasn’t able financially to do anything. The city sent a bill of $16,000 to keep it up and man it and stuff,” she said. “But that’s impossible. There’s no way in the world I could do that.”
Thomasville Fire Department leaders told FOX8 they want something more to be done to prevent these fires.
“The building needs to be secured in a good way, or demolished at this point,” Battalion Chief Robbie Binkley said.
There have been four fires there since 2019. At least two of them, including the fire on Nov. 2, were arson.
“I hope they find out who did it and get them,” Brock said. “Stuff like this is uncalled for.”
FOX8 is told that police and city inspectors will be back on site on Friday.
There is no electricity to the building, so right now the fire is being considered as suspicious.
Thomas would like to see another church or school go on this property. She told FOX8 she plans to speak with the financial owner of the building next week to figure out their next steps.
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