OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - A huge fire in Ocean Springs temporarily shut down part of Government Street on Wednesday afternoon as firefighters worked to save the YMCA teen counseling and senior center. Flames shot through the building, and YMCA officials said they're pretty sure the facility is now a complete loss.
Balls of fire and lots of smoke filled Government Street in Ocean Springs near the YMCA just before noon on Wednesday. The fast moving fire tore through the teen counseling and senior center within minutes, leaving many folks who live and work in the area in shock.
"It is the worst one I have ever seen," a resident said.
"It is pretty hot. I can feel the heat from here, and it is going to take them a little while to put it out," resident Kevin Mack said.
Ocean Springs firefighters spent more than two hours working to contain the blaze that kept shooting flames into the air.
"It is a big one," said Mark Mohler.
Mohler works across the street at a local grocery store. When he and a coworker saw smoke, they dashed inside the burning building to make sure no one was trapped.
"No one was inside. Ashes started falling out of the roof. It was smoky, but not too bad yet. It flamed up quick once we came out it," said Mohler.
The cause of the fire is still a mystery. The blaze equals a big loss for the YMCA. The building was part of a $2.5 million expansion-renovation project that began in March.
"That center was going to be a part of a vital piece of that. Obviously, our plans are changing as we speak. We are going to come back stronger, but it is a setback," said Joey Conwill, with the YMCA.
Conwill said the building was also being used a storage facility during this new construction. She is sure the fire destroyed all that stuff.
"We had our tables and chairs in there, and our adults had an exercise class in there, so it is all our exercise equipment. A lot of CPR training stuff and other training stuff were in there. Like I said, all that can be replaced. We are just happy nobody was hurt and there will be a silver lining, there always is," said Conwill.
YMCA officials said no one was inside the facility when the fire sparked. A nearby preschool was evacuated as a safety precaution.
Ocean Springs fire officials said the state fire marshal will be at the scene on Monday to help with the fire investigation.