BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - An early morning fire destroyed the family home of a Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame inductee. Neighbors tell WLOX former University of Southern Mississippi quarterback Reggie Collier grew up in the large two story house on Fayard Street that was built by his grandfather.
By mid-morning on Saturday, Biloxi firefighters were putting away their hoses and packing up equipment. Hours earlier, they arrived on Fayard Street to find the house engulfed in flames.
Battalion Chief Joe Boney said, "Crews found heavy fire involved in the rear of the structure. It was moving toward the front of the structure."
Firefighters said they immediately went to work trying to put out the blaze, but soon realized it wouldn't be easy.
"They went in and tried to make a quick attack, but the fire had advanced too far. We had to back out and do a defensive attack for a few minutes, so we could get it where we could go back in and finish knocking the fire out," said Boney.
Firefighters said the size of the house also presented a challenge.
Boney said, "We had to use a piece of aerial equipment to get in and black it out because the crews couldn't get up to the second floor."
Once the blaze was out, firefighters started sifting through the charred debris. The goal was to determine what caused the fire that sent a Biloxi family running for their lives in the wee hours of the morning.
"There were residents in the home when the fire started," said Boney. "They were all out of the house by the time we got here, so no one was injured."
Investigators say they have not yet determined the cause of the fire that broke out around 4:00 am. Neighbors say the house was the childhood home of former USM and pro football player Reggie Collier.
Anthony Woods expressed shock and sadness to see what fire had done to the house. For decades, he says he lived a few doors down from the home of the well-known East Biloxi family.
"Back in the 60s and 70s. This is the family house right," Woods said. "Reverend Nance was originally from here. He built the house himself."
Along with building the house, the late Reverend Robert Nance founded Nance Temple Church of God in Christ. Neighbors describe him as a well-respected man who went out of his way to help people in need.
"He had quite a few homes himself out on this back street. On this street, I think he owned quite a few homes he rented out," Woods said. "He had the church that's on Main and Division down there. He built that church."
Neighbors said the house has been home to several generations of the Nance family including his grandson Reggie Collier.
Woods said, "Him and his brother, they grew up in that house. That was his grandparents house. "
Biloxi firefighters say the fire started in the back of the house. Fortunately, everyone inside made it out safe.