Fire destroys Rottle Field grandstands in Montesano

A late night fire broke out in the grandstands at Montesano High School’s Jack Rottle Field Sunday night, leaving a blackened skeleton where a symbol of community pride once stood.

Witnesses who live close to the high school said they saw the flames and heard the fire trucks arrive close to 10 p.m. The fire, the cause of which is still being investigated, had already engulfed the wooden stands by the time firefighters got there.

“When we arrived, we found the grandstands fully involved,” said Montesano Fire Chief, Corey Rux.

Rux said the firefighting crew, which consisted of teams from the Montesano Fire Department and Grays Harbor Fire District 2, set up a defensive perimeter between the stadium and the high school. No one was injured in the fire. About 25 firefighters responded to the blaze.

The stadium is a total loss, according to fire officials. Investigators worked into the morning picking through the wreckage trying to find the cause of the fire.

School was in session this morning. “It’s pretty quiet in the building today,” said Principal Robert Corley. “Everybody is pretty surprised. I am shocked. The fire just happened so quickly.”

The stadium was built in the 1940s and is used in the fall for football and girls soccer.

“No decision has been made at this time” as to where to play the home games of the two teams, Corley said. “We’re lucky the football team has an away game this week.”

As firefighters brought the flames under control, a crowd of spectators gathered across the street from the stadium, most of them high school students. Many watched awestruck at the gutted remains of the stadium.

“I’ve never seen fire like that before,” said Adam Torres, a 16-year-old student at the school. “I’ve never seen flames like that before.”

Like most people watching the fire, Torres said he heard about the fire on Facebook.

Laura Benjaminson, a 14-year-old student at Montesano, said she was shocked by the fire.

“It’s horrible for the senior class, it’s their last year,” she said adding. “Where are they going to play?”