Farmington Farmers reminisce about 'old school' as it goes up in flames

By Audrey Wise

May 15, 2014 Updated May 15, 2014 at 6:49 PM CDT

FARMINGTON, Ill -- The old Farmington High School caught fire early Thursday morning.

The Farmington Fire Department arrived on scene around 5:15 a.m. but the Chief said the fire may have started an hour before crews arrived.

About 20 departments, from at least four counties, were called in to help battle the blaze.

Officials believe no one was inside. Firefighters expect to be there into the night.

For many Farmington residents, the building holds their adolescent memories.

"Tomorrow has been 10 years since we graduated from here and we were the last class out of Farmington High School, it's a really sad thing," said '04 grad Tom Blacet.

David Giagnoni graduated from Farmington and taught there for 34 years.

"There are a lot of memories in that building, most of them good, and I guess we'll live with those," said Giagnoni.

After the school closed in 2004 brothers Spark and Dan Meister bought the 89-year-old structure. They have been renovating the 75,000 square foot building. One of the owners was too distraught to speak on camera, but says the main part of the building was used as a retreat center for faith-based groups. Now called the Old school center, it also has small businesses like a car shop, a daycare and a weld shop.

Sue and George Starcevich both graduated from Farmington and now own a welding business in the building. They said, "We started dating here and now we own a business, Star Metal Art. We'll be back, we just have to find a new place to put it."

There's no word on if parts of the building can be saved or if it's a total loss. The fire is still under investigation, there's no word on how it started.

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