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Abandoned HeadStart building in Crow Agency destroyed by flames

HeadStart Fire
Posted at 5:09 PM, Oct 02, 2023

The abandoned HeadStart building in Crow Agency erupted in flames Sunday evening, destroying the structure and everything inside.

No one was injured in the fire, as the building hasn't been operational since at least before the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the gas, water and electricity were shut off inside, authorities declared that it was protocol to let the fire burn it to the ground.

On Monday, authorities were investigating the damage and making sure that none of the rubble reignited into flames.

HeadStart Fire 2

While the building hadn't been used for years, it still meant a great deal to many residents living in Crow Agency, such as Luella Brien.

"We all have some sort of connection to that building and to that place," Brien said on Monday morning. "People in their 50s all the way down to kids in high school now, went to school there. We all have a story of HeadStart."

Many residents, like Brien, attended the school as students. Others, like Justin Howe, had family members learning inside those walls.

"My nieces attended HeadStart," Howe said. "It educated a lot of the youth that grew up on the rez in Crow Agency area."

Both Howe and Brien understand just how important that building was to the community they've been a part of for their entire lives.

"Without the HeadStart, our kids have no place to go for education," Howe said.

Howe was one of the first to notice the flames on Sunday. His home is located just a few blocks over from the school.

"I could see the orange sky," Howe said. "That sucker was really going by then. I was just hoping that everyone was safe."

Brien arrived on scene and took photos for the Four Point Press, an online publication she founded that covers the reservation and surrounding areas. She said that authorities said they saw kids fleeing the scene but weren't sure if they were suspects or just happened to be running from the building.

Remnants of HeadStart

Authorities have not determined what caused the fire, but Brien said it feels eerily similar to when their tribal headquarters burned down in 2019.

"It's really upsetting to think that some of the buildings that we're losing are being lost to vandalism or irresponsibility," Brien said. "It's a problem across the reservation: vandalism. And these types of petty crimes that build up into the loss of something big like our HeadStart building."

Howe said that it's unfortunately just a part of what living life on a reservation is like.

"It's part of Crow," Howe said. "It's part of our community here. Every day, another building has been destroyed."

A brutal reality for a community trying to move on from its most recent devastating loss.

"It just feels like all of these locations that are so dear to us are ending their eras," Brien said. "The building may be gone, but that community we built is still here."