Old Hope gym destroyed by fire

HOPE – The town of Hope suffered a historic loss Wednesday night after the old gymnasium next to the Hope Community Center was destroyed by fire.

No injuries were reported during the 9:37 p.m. blaze at 543 Washington St., according to Hope firefighters. When first responders arrived, heavy smoke was coming from the structure.

Initially, firefighters attempted to bring the flames under control by removing heat, oxygen and fuel from the building. However, this tactic – known as an interior suppression attack – failed due to a partial roof and floor collapse.

A decision was made to request the Columbus Fire Department to bring two aerial trucks. From an elevated position, firefighters used approximately 30,000 gallons of water until it was determined the fire was out. Firefighters were then able to to make limited entry to put out any remaining hot spots.

“There is significant water damage throughout the entire structure,” said Hope Volunteer Fire Chief Chad Emmert, who said firefighters remained on the scene until 3:23 a.m. Thursday.

Damage estimates will be difficult to determine because the old gym was in such a state of disrepair prior to the fire, Emmert said.

“The stage inside the gym had already partially collapsed,” the fire chief said. “There were also a lot of leaks throughout the entire structure.”

The building has served no purpose for about 12 to 13 years, Community Center of Hope Executive Director Chelsea Warriner said.

After examining the damage during the daylight, Warriner said that while the exterior structure remains standing, the gym’s roof is definitely a complete loss.

In addition to Hope and Columbus firefighters, other departments that responded were Flatrock, Clifford and Hartsville.

Originally with a seating capacity of 1,200, the old Hope gym was constructed in 1938 as a project of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The gym made possible the addition of physical education classes and became the permanent home for the high school basketball team, which had been playing in the Petersville and Taylorsville gyms. The facility also had a stage for drama productions, as well as other school and community events.