Fire destroys historic Hoven High School building
Traditionally, Memorial Day weekend marks the start of summer. In Hoven, it marked the end of an era.
The Hoven High School building, which has stood in the center of town where the first class graduated from it in 1941, was destroyed by fire early Sunday morning, May 25.
The fire department was called around 1 a.m., and some wives of the local fire fighters said they weren’t too concerned, explaining that often when calls come in from businesses in town, they turn out to be a fire alarm that was accidentally tripped, and the emergency crews return within a short period of time after a safety check of the building.
This time, they were on the site for a long time. They were met with a fire that appeared to be started near the old gym behind the school building. The school held classes for both the junior high and high school students, with around 55 who attended.
Gettysburg’s emergency crews were soon called, and before long, over a dozen fire departments were at the scene to fight a fire that was fast taking over the school.
Water became an issue as the town’s water source dwindled while the fire was doused for several hours. Pumper trucks pulled water for nearby water holes including Simon Dam outside of Hoven, and temporary water dump tanks were put in place near the school building. WEB water also was on hand to make the tower northwest of Hoven available as a water source. As the night waned, there were firefighters from around a hundred mile radius including Lebanon, Tolstoy, Java, Bowdle, Selby, Onida, Ipswich, Glenham, Herreid, Akaska, Hosmer, and Roscoe providing mutual aid. Farmers and ag businesses in the region brought trucks with water tanks to the fire to help. Ambulance crews from Hoven and Selby were on the scene, and law enforcement from the Potter and Walworth Sheriff Departments, along with the Hoven Police Department were all on site. Montana-Dakota Utilities was on hand to help disconnect electricity.
Cheryl Sautner, Potter County’s Emergency Manager, said that some homes to the north and west were evacuated as a precaution, but none of the surrounding structures sustained any damage. As residents watched the fire, comments about the history lost through photos of old class composites and documents left in the building were destroyed. One happy save was an old scoreboard salvaged from the gym wreckage.
Peggy Petersen, who had just finished her final year as Hoven’s superintendent and principal, reported in a television news interview that the school board will meet to make a plan for the fall school year. The hospital building in town is vacant, and one possibility is using that for classrooms until a permanent solution is found. The Hoven and Gettysburg schools have joined forces during the past couple years in a sports co-op as the Potter County Battlers.
Firefighters stayed on the scene into the afternoon, and some crews were on site for several hours to watch for any flare ups.
Doug Hinkle, the state’s chief deputy fire marshal, was on site Sunday where he interviewed a number of firefighters and witnesses as part of the investigation.
Hoven celebrated graduation for the Class of 2014 last weekend and classes were out for the summer. No one was in the building and no injuries were reported. The high school building opened in the fall of 1940.