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Vacant Ralph Waldo Emerson High School building gutted by fire in Gary, Indiana

Massive fire at abandoned school in Gary, Indiana
Massive fire at abandoned school in Gary, Indiana 02:41

GARY, Ind. (CBS) -- A historic school building went up in flames overnight, breaking many hearts in Gary, Indiana, and Chicago.

Firefighters worked through the early morning to put out a massive blaze at the old Ralph Waldo Emerson High School.

Alumnus Matthew Glass was shattered to see his former school disintegrating.

The historic building has been through two fires. While the burned-out shell of the school was still standing Sunday, Glass questioned if it should be torn down.

"I can't believe it's water still running out of it. I'm actually about to cry" he said. "For this school being the oldest school in Gary, it's going to break a lot of hearts."

Glass lives in Chicago, but graduated from the school decades ago.

"I came out of here in 1988. It was the first year of the Emerson visual performing arts school. I was one of the first graduating classes from there," he said.

Sunday morning, a large fire broke out at the abandoned school.

Firefighters worked to put out the massive blaze.

The early morning fire prompted a massive response from Gary and nearby municipalities, including Merrillville and Munster.

The fire was so intense, flames tore through the roof. The abandoned building presented an extra risk for firefighters having to search for anyone who might be inside, because they can be unstable after being left vacant for years.

The blaze comes months after a similar fire tore through the building in June.

"It wasn't as bad. It was something that was extinguished pretty quickly. This is decimated now," Glass said.

The school is on the National Register of Historic Places. Glass said he and other alumni petitioned to save it.

"We are the ones that kind of put that in motion, and it went through," he said.

But the abandoned building has a history of crime. In 2015, 17-year-old Connita Richardson's body was found inside. Her murder remains unsolved.

"There were a couple of things that happened here that was unusual for just the atmosphere around here. It was unfortunate; loss of life," Glass said.

Glass said the school closed after the last graduating class of 2007. He questioned if the school will still stand after this last fire.

"This is going to be heartbreaking for a lot of people in this area," he said.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation Sunday evening.

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