At approximately 2:20 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, classes at The Other Side came out of their classroom to see their old gym, new gym, classrooms and shop with smoke coming out of the roof. Fire departments from Wilburn, Pine Snag Lobo, Cove Creek Pearson, Heber Springs, Pangburn, Greers Ferry, Concord, Rose Bud, Drasco, Tumbling Shoals/Ida, Prim. Hickory Flat and from White County Letona, Albion, Fairview responded to the fire, bringing more tankers and water to help fight the fire. First electric was on hand in case they were needed. Cleburne County Deputies, Arkansas State Police were on hand to help with traffic control. Heber Springs Mayor Jimmy Clark came to see if there was anything he could do to help.
The Other Side was in the school building of the Wilburn School which was disestablished in July 2004, when it was consolidated with the Concord School District. Ten years later at an auction, The Other Side was able to purchase the property and buildings to establish their faith based drug treatment program. Members and the board of directors of the non-profit came together from eight or more churches in the area and say they simply felt the need for mission work in our community. The Other Side is completely supported by donations and fundraisers. According to Jay Cupit, founder, it costs around $20,000 .to keep the center running. Unfortunately, this didn’t include insurance on the buildings.
Despite the efforts of all the fire departments, the building was a complete loss. The building was currently used as a gym, a shop, classrooms for the program and for items for The Other Side store. It also held lawn mowers, weed eaters and other items they use to earn money doing lawn work. Because there was no insurance on the building Cupit is not sure what their next steps will be. He was thankful no one was injured or killed. Cupit was stoic as he watched dreams go up in flames. His faith, however, did not waiver. He and the residents though shaken, did not waver in their faith. At one point after darkness had fallen, residents could be found in the darkened chapel, lit only by flashlights and phones, singing praises to God.
Cupit was overwhelmed by the responses from firefighters and others in the community. “I really want to thank all of the fire departments and first responders who showed up. I also owe a tremendous thanks to Pangburn school which sent over cases of waters for those fighting the fire, Ricky Davis, owner of Sonic, who sent over around 70 hamburgers to feed everyone, and to Todd Slayton, owner of Pizza Pie-Zazz, who sent over at least more than a dozen pizzas.” Community members showed up with food as well as prayers.
After more than four hours of non stop work on the part of firefighters, the flames had died down in the ruins of what was once the Wilburn Public School. Hot spots were expected to be worked possibly throughout the night. Firefighters began leaving around 8 o’clock. A few of them remained to be there in case the hot spots starting burning again.
Cupit reiterated how very thankful he was to all that responded and to Sonic and Pizza Pie-Zazz for feeling the residents and the first responders. “I’m overwhelmed by the love from this community.” Cupit said.
Over the next few days Cupit said, they will begin to figure out what they will do next.