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ST. LOUIS (KTVI) – Fire, possibly sparked by lightning, damaged the empty Hempstead Elementary School in west St. Louis Saturday. The more than 100 year old building was designed by famous school architect William Ittner. The school had been closed in 2003 and was for sale.

Smoke billowing from the roof line prompted a passerby to call 911. The St. Louis Fire Department called four alarms and brought in 100 firefighters to battle the blaze. Four aerial ladders were used to funnel water onto the roof and through upper windows.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said two companies initially entered the three story brick school and found heavy fire and smoke in the attic. They pulled out when the fire began moving behind them. Outside, firefighters positioned equipment at the middle section of the school to block the fire’s advance.

“They did a good job,” said Jenkerson. “I think the building is worth saving.”

St. Louis City Alderman Jeffrey Boyd attended school at Hempstead. As he watched the firefighters, Boyd shook his head in disbelief. “I’m disappointed and saddened,” he said as he recalled his three years at the school. “I hope it can be saved,” he added.

Hempstead had been an anchor for the Hamilton Heights neighborhood for years. It is located in the 5800 block of Minerva.

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