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GARY — An investigation is underway after fire crews responded early Wednesday to a fully involved fire at the vacant former Horace Mann High School.

Gary fire crews were notified at about 5:30 a.m. of a fire at the former school building in the 500 block of Garfield Street, department spokesman Mark Jones said Wednesday afternoon. The fire was contained to the interior of the school's auditorium, but was fully involved and the smoke and fire damage was extensive, Jones said. 

Crews were on scene for about five hours, Jones said Wednesday afternoon. The cause is incendiary, but Jones said the case remains under investigation. 

Gary Schools Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Pruitt said Wednesday she has spoken with the police and fire departments but it may be some time before they can give school officials a summary of what occurred. 

The building was empty and no services were on, Pruitt said.

Pruitt said she plans to speak with the school district's insurance and speak with the state about next steps about Horace Mann and all of the district's shuttered buildings to see if there are options for demolishing or re-purposing. 

The struggling Gary Community School Corp. operates 16 open schools but has 21 shuttered school buildings.

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Northlake County Reporter

Lauren covers North Lake County government, breaking news, crime and environmental issues for The Times. She previously worked at The Herald-News in Joliet. She holds a master’s degree in Public Affairs Reporting.