By RUTHIE ROBINSON
The Webster Progress-Times
WALTHALL — An early morning fire Thursday gutted and destroyed most of the historic Webster County Courthouse.
The Walthall Volunteer Fire Department and Eupora Volunteer Fire Department responded to an alert and found the courthouse in flames about 2:30 a.m.
When the emergency responders first arrived at the scene, the fire was confined to the southwest corner of the building.
Firefighters immediately attempted to tame the flames from both outside and inside of the 100-year-old structure, which is located at 515 Carroll St. in the county seat of Walthall. Heat transferred to the attic on the second floor of the courthouse, breaching the roof of the building. As a result, the roof of the structure caved in, forcing all firefighters inside to evacuate. No injuries were reported from the collapse.
With Webster County under a winter storm warning, strong gusts of wind fed the flames and stirred burning timbers through the air, causing hazardous conditions for emergency responders.
Because of safety concerns, efforts to cease the fire were halted until Starkville’s Fire Station No. 1 ladder truck arrived.
All Webster County fire departments, as well as some of the surrounding county departments, assisted with putting out the flames and providing tanker trucks. The fire was extinguished by 7 a.m.
The courthouse was erected in 1913, and is one of the most notable courthouses in the state. Jackson architect N.W. Overstreet used a brick and terracotta late empire masterpiece design for the building, which is rare in Mississippi.
Local architect and Walthall Mayor Belinda Stewart said if the brick and walls remain structurally sound, a restoration may be possible.
The Webster County Board of Supervisors called an emergency meeting Thursday afternoon in the boardroom of the Webster County Schools’ Central Office Building in Eupora.
After a thorough investigation, Webster County Sheriff Tim Mitchell released the results during the board meeting, stating that the fire started when a power strip in a first-floor office on the southwest corner shorted out. The investigating fire marshal stated the fire was non-suspicious, according to discussion during the meeting.