Loftis Middle School will be closed today and Tuesday following an early morning fire.
About 2:30 a.m., 911 received an automatic fire alarm at the school, officials said. Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department arrived on the scene within minutes and reported no visible signs of fire showing.
Firefighters gained access inside the building to turn off the fire alarm and noticed signs of vandalism inside the main office area. At that time, they also heard noises of doors rattling in the building and reported possible suspects inside the building. Firefighters immediately exited the building for safety reasons.
Moments later, visible signs of fire were spotted at the right corner of the building. The automatic sprinkler system activated and firefighters extinguished the fire immediately, containing it to the one room.
The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office SWAT team did an extensive search beginning on the roof, then into the school itself. The search ended about 9:45 a.m. with no one located inside the building and the school was turned back over to school authorities.
During the search, officers observed a large amount of vandalism including broken windows, destroyed classrooms, blinds torn off windows. The main office also was ransacked and destroyed. The sprinkler system caused water damage in 10 to 12 classrooms.
Because of the water damage, the middle school will not be open today.