Orange Grove Community Center Fire Fizzles Plans

Meet Paula and Ernest Parks.  They live in Germany, but came to Gulfport to celebrate Ernest's 50th birthday.

"We have to go pick up two cakes. We have food catered, it's just overwhelming really," said Paula Parks.

150 people from Germany to Florida are now in South Mississippi for the big party. When the couple found out the Orange Grove Community Center caught on fire the day of their party, they were shocked.

Parks said, "We were at breakfast and I was like what. You're thinking of all the things that could possibly happen and that was like the last thing I could think of."

Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan said, "It's a municipal building that's burned, and that always a problem because we hate to loose property. We are good stewards of the property and we hate to see that loss."

Sullivan says around 4:30 Saturday morning someone reported seeing smoke coming from the back of the building.

Investigators discovered that the fire began in a storage room in the back of the community center.

"It was the largest community center we had. We could have events up to 300 people in here," Sullivan said. "This is going to impact a lot of groups."

As for the Parks, they remain optimistic.

Ernest Parks says,''It's really not that bad because I really have all my kids together for the first time in probably about four to five years in one location and all my grandkids. It will be okay. All the other stuff, family will understand."

Family will understand, and thanks to a local hotel, it looks like Ernest and his family will be able to have that big birthday bash after all.

Administrators with the Orange Grove Community Center are working to try and relocate smaller events to other city buildings.

If you had an event planned at the Orange Grove Community Center, you can call the leisure services main office at (228) 868-5881.