Biloxi Investigates Howard II Fire

David Williams had Howard II clean up detail. "This here is dirty work," the Biloxi fireman said moments after hosing down a smokey section of Howard II Elementary School.

"I mean all we're doing now is digging through the building, trying to find hot spots and things like that."

While Williams' team hit the hot spots, Biloxi fire investigators and the state fire marshal walked around the perimeter of Howard II. They couldn't get inside the still smoldering school. And Williams could tell you why.

"If you can imagine putting your oven on broil and putting the biggest, thickest jacket you got in your closet and sitting in your home like that for about an hour, that's what it feels like fighting the fire," he explained.

The scene inside what used to be a three story building was rather remarkable.

"You've got the roof, the third floor and the second floor all collapsed into one," the fireman said. "And that's all it is, is a solid pile of wood and steel and anything that was left in the building."

Chelsea Fortenberry left seven years of memories in the old school. The Biloxi High senior ran down to Howard II when she heard about the trouble.

"It's so weird because I can see myself running through the school," she said while standing across the street from the charred building. "I mean I ate lunch right there."

The overnight fire devoured the Howard II cafeteria. It reduced a school that was part of east Biloxi for 76 years into nothing more than burning debris.

"It isn't there anymore," Fortenberry said. "It's scary. It really is."

Fire investigators think it will take them a few days to actually sift through the Howard II rubble and find burn patterns and other clues that could determine how the fire started.