TULSA - A midtown Tulsa school is destroyed following an hours-long fire that began early Wednesday morning.
Just after 5 a.m., neighbors reported seeing flames coming from the Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences (TSAS), formerly Barnard Elementary School, at 17th and South Lewis.
Barnard Elementary was closed in May 2011 under Project Schoolhouse. It was then leased to TSAS beginning with the 2012 school year.
View more pictures from the scene at http://bit.ly/ThWi2Q .
After more than five hours, firefighters finally contained the fire, though it continues to smolder.
Eight firefighters were transported to a nearby hospital after suffering second- and third-degree burns to their faces and hands. Six of them are expected to be released as early as Wednesday afternoon or evening.
Tulsa Fire Department Capt. Stan May says those six firefighters suffered burns from falling debris when explosions occurred near the science lab. The other firefighters suffered more serious injuries but are expected to recover.
Officials say the blaze began on the east side of the building and slowly spread to the west.
Red Cross volunteers arrived on the scene early Wednesday morning to provide relief aid for the hundreds of emergency workers who responded to the blaze.
Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are assisting the TFD with the investigation into what caused the fire.
May says the ATF was called in because of the science lab explosions and says the ATF has the resources to pin point a cause.
May says the school was undergoing updates prior to the fire and work was being performed as recently as Tuesday night.
May says the fire began in the same area where that work was performed, which could be a potential cause.
The TSAS building is owned by Tulsa Public Schools. It is leased by the public charter school and serves about 300 students in grades nine through 12.
School Director Eric Doss made it clear that it's a sad day for the TSAS community.
"You know, it just breaks my heart," he said. "Our community has put a lot of time and effort into this building. It just breaks my heart to see it in this shape."
School was canceled Tuesday but classes will resume Thursday morning at TPS's former Sequoyah Elementary School near Archer and North Harvard.
TPS Superintendent Keith Ballard released the following statement:
TPS staff is working diligently to prepare the building for TSAS staff to welcome students back to school first thing in the morning. We are doing everything in our power to ensure that TSAS students have a comfortable home at the former Sequoyah building.
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