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Blountsville School Fire History With Fire Chief Donnie Ellenburg

by | Mar 29, 2017 | Blount, Breaking News, City News, County News, Cullman, Hanceville, Oneonta

Blountsville School Fire History With Fire Chief Donnie Ellenburg

In 1917, the school was called the ‘State Secondary School’ with J.B. Penington becoming the principal. Two years later, the facility was destroyed by fire in 1919.

The ongoing, multiple day structure fire at the J.B. Pennington High School in Blountsville took its toll on students, teachers, and school officials.

Long term the focus now turns towards how the education system will ultimately recover from this fire which required the building’s roof to be largely peeled off. The metal roof removal was necessary to allow for the complete extinguishment of the hot spots and smoldering building materials that kept the fire going for three long days.

From the first day, J. B. Pennington Principal Brian Kirk has received a massive outpouring of support from the nearby Blount County schools and the Oneonta City School system.

The human community support across Blount and adjoining counties have been open and benevolent.

As Kirk told ABC 33/40 news:

“We will overcome this.”

Blountsville School Fire History With Fire Chief Donnie Ellenburg

In 1917, the school was called the ‘State Secondary School’ with J.B. Penington becoming the principal. Two years later, the facility was destroyed by fire in 1919.

The people of Blountsville rebuilt the school A name change occurred at that time; it was called the Blountsville High School (BHS). BHS was destroyed by fire almost two decades later in 1938. The resilience of the community was on display; they rebuilt the school once again.

In 1939, the school name changed to J. B. Pennington High School. Sadly, this building burned in 1990. The community and alumni worked together reconstructing the school to open in 1992.

That’s a very short synopsis of the past and present of what is now known as J. B. Pennington High School.

What may be lost to history – if not appropriately documented – is the relentless, day and night effort put forth by emergency response agencies from the area who were involved battling this most recent school blaze.

Blountsville School Fire History With Fire Chief Donnie Ellenburg

Here is a partial list of all organizations that participated in the ultimate extinguishment of the J:. B. Pennington High School Fire of 2017:

Blount County 911

14 – Blountsville Station 65
13 – Summit Station 60
15 – Royal Station Station 21
10 – Hanceville Fire & Rescue*
7 – Dallas Seville Station 8
5 – City of Cullman Fire Rescue*
5 – Rosa Station 75
5 – Cleveland Station 5
4 – Locust Fork Station 7
4 – Susan Moore Station 9
3 – Snead Station 6
3 – Brooksville Station 95
3 – Oneonta Station 12
2 – Berlin Fire & Rescue*
1 – Nectar Station 73
1 – West Blount Station 7
1 – Remlap Station 80

Blount County EMS
A-MED Ambulance Service
Blount County EMA
Alabama State Fire Mashall

Blountsville Police
Snead Police
Blount County Sheriff’s Office

American Red Cross

United Rentals

(* = Cullman County)

Members of the Blountsville Fire Department (BFD) stayed on the school grounds night and day (24/7) throughout the ordeal.

According to Blountsville Fire Chief Donnie Ellenburg, the department was left physically exhausted and emotionally spent by the end of the 3+ days of the firefighting effort.

BFD personnel worked and slept on a rotation basis throughout.

Chief Ellensburg wishes to thank ALL of the above agencies and responders listed above. He says ‘the agency responses showed the incredible commitment to mutual aid in Blount County and from surrounding communities.’


Blountsville School Fire History With Fire Chief Donnie Ellenburg

According to Alecia Overby (whose father was the former Blountsville Fire Chief for 15 years with her brother acting as current Blountsville’s Assistant Chief James):

“Neither Chief Donnie or James are big on media attention, or any attention at all. However, they are amazing men and leaders. Both want to express their deepest gratitude to everyone involved in responding to this emergency. Also, they want to let the citizens of Cullman County know just how much their fire departments did for us at J.B. Penington.


My brother is a man of few words. Raised by a Fire Chief who set the standards bar very high, he has some quite lofty expectations. As a result, he was extremely impressed by Hanceville Fire & Rescue and Chief Rodger Green who had crews at the location each day and all day of the going fire.


Chief Green and Hanceville Fire were not called in. They just heard about the fire, came out voluntarily on their own and worked side-by-side with us like it was their own high school that was burning. We could not have been more impressed with both their professionalism, work ethic and total commitment.


Summit Fire Chief Paula Robertson also gets special recognition for staying with the Blountsville Fire Department 24/7 throughout the fire.”

Ultimately, J. B. Pennington High School will get rebuilt, students and teachers will return to an upgraded facility.

Hopefully, the efforts and actions of the men and women who fought this fire remain in the memory of Blountsville residents.

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Blountsville School Fire History With Fire Chief Donnie Ellenburg

Timothy Collins

Originally from Asheville, NC, Timothy brings an insightful holistic perspective as well as a mountain man tenacity to his various roles at Cullman Today. You can reach him at and/or (256) 615-8260.

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