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‘It could have been a disaster’

Both Superintendent Greg Hamilton and principal Dr. Karen Thorn breathed sighs of relief Wednesday as flames were extinguished at the after-school mobile unit at Tharptown Elementary School.

A fire broke out in the mobile unit that houses the Tharptown afterschool program, known as TRACKS, and the gifted class. Officials said the fire appeared to be electrical in nature, centered around an air conditioning unit on the side of the building. There was minimal damage to materials inside the unit, and no one was in the building when the fire occurred.

“I am just thankful no one was hurt or injured,” said Thorn. “Our TRACKS team did a great job. You can replace material things but not lives. I am also thankful for our fire departments from the City of Russellville, Tharptown and Lagrange for getting here as quickly as possible and getting the fire under control.”

Hamilton noted the situation could have been much worse.

“You never want anything like this to happen,” Hamilton said, “but we are lucky it happened when it did, with people on campus to alert the fire departments. If this had happened just a few hours later, it could have spread quickly to the main building, which is very old. It could have been a disaster.”

Hamilton also expressed his gratitude to the local fire departments.

“The job they did and the speed with which they were able to get things under control was amazing. I am very thankful for what they do every day to protect us,” Hamilton said.

Tharptown elementary and high school students switched to remote learning the day after the fire to keep as many people away from the scene as possible while authorities did their investigation.

Hamilton said he hopes the afterschool program can go back to normal operations in less than two weeks.

“We contacted the company that owns the modular unit, which we have been leasing,” Hamilton explained. “They deemed it a total loss. They said they would have the unit removed and a new one put in its place in seven days. So hopefully we can be back up and running in a couple of weeks.”