Elk Grove’s parks and recreation department hopes to rebuild after a devastating early morning fire Friday gutted its historic headquarters and caused as much as $6.5 million in damage.
“It is a big loss. It’s a historical building – it’s on the historical registry. We want to rebuild, but I can’t tell you what our plans are,” said Jeff Ramos, general manager of Cosumnes Community Services District in the hours after the blaze Friday.
The blaze broke out in the former school building at 8820 Elk Grove Blvd. at about 12:09 a.m. and quickly grew to three alarms, said Cosumnes Deputy Fire Chief Michael McLaughlin. Flames raced through the nearly century-old building, tearing gaping holes through its tile roof. The building’s absence of sprinklers contributed to the severity and spread of the fire, he said.
“It took us about four hours to bring it under control,” said McLaughlin. “It was a major undertaking. This was a major incident for our community.”
Damage was estimated at up to $6.5 million, Cosumnes fire officials said on the department’s Twitter account. The fire appeared to have started in the building’s attic and seemed to be accidental, but officials “are continuing to work to pinpoint the cause,” another tweet read.
The district provides park and recreation services and fire protection for Elk Grove, and the building is the hub of the district. Fire Department offices are nearby on East Stockton Boulevard.
About 75 percent of the parks building was destroyed. McLaughlin said the district’s human resources, parks, finance and general administration offices were heavily damaged.
It is unclear if district computer records were damaged, but McLaughlin said fire crews were able to protect the section of the building where the district’s servers and electronic file storage were housed, adding, “Only time will tell when we will be able to get in there and pull those things out.”
Firefighters were able to save an adjacent district preschool, an elementary school and a district parks and recreation annex, fire officials said.
But many district officials will have to find new space. Many staffers will go to desks at the district’s Wackford Community & Aquatic Complex on Bruceville Road or to the fire facility on East Stockton Boulevard for the foreseeable future.
“We’re working out logistics, where to go,” Ramos said. “Damage was very, very extensive.”
The fire closed the district’s preschool. Classes will resume Tuesday, Ramos said.
The blaze also forced the adjacent California Montessori Project’s K-3 classes to move to its sister campus on Bradshaw Road. Ramos said the Montessori campus will reopen on Monday.
Fred Bremerman, a Community Services District management analyst, has worked at the Elk Grove Boulevard offices for 20 years. He stood outside the building Friday morning capturing images of the charred building on a smartphone.
“A friend of mine texted me, ‘Your building burned.’ This is not the way today was supposed to start,” Bremerman said. “My boss was an elementary school student here in this building. There’s a huge amount of history in this building. What a day.”
The building, with its distinctive terra cotta tile roof, is an Elk Grove landmark.
Built in 1922, it was Elk Grove Grammar School, serving pupils in kindergarten through eighth grade, and the Elk Grove Unified School District headquarters.
The Elk Grove Community Services District, now the Cosumnes Community Services District, moved into the building in 1990. The grammar school moved when Elk Grove Elementary was built in 1992. The district offices moved when the Trigg Education Center was built nearby on Elk Grove-Florin Road in 1995.
Before Elk Grove’s incorporation in 2000, the community services building was the main center of government in the city.
Elk Grove author and local historian Elizabeth Pinkerton was a teacher and administrator in Elk Grove schools for 40 years. She taught in the building for three years in the 1960s.
She remembered when the school board met in the meeting room now used by the parks department.
“People have a lot of memories of the building because they either went to school there or attended some other function there,” Pinkerton said.
Longtime residents also mourned the building’s loss Friday.
“This is a historical building,” said 40-year Elk Grove resident Cheryl Griess, on her morning walk along Elk Grove Boulevard with friend Nancy Orick. “It’s emotional. It’s a community landmark.”
For Ramos, the district’s general manager, the loss was personal.
“It’s been my home for 20 years. It’s kind of like losing your home,” he said. “If there’s a feeling like it, that’s it.”
Call The Bee’s Bill Lindelof, (916) 321-1079. The Bee’s Diana Lambert contributed to this report.
Call (916) 405-5600 for Cosumnes Community Service District parks and recreation services.
For nonemergency fire services, call (916) 405-7100.
Find updated information at CSD Parks & Recreation and CSD Fire Department’s Facebook pages.