Fire crews remained on scene some 14 hours after an early morning fire broke out at the former Chestnut Junior High School.
The building has been vacant for years.
Now an arson investigation is underway.
Thick smoke billowed into the Springfield sky after a fire tore through the school.
"In the back of the building it started and then all of a sudden they opened the door and the whole front was on fire," said resident Wayne Welch.
The Springfield Fire Department said they were first alerted of smoke coming from the city's North End section.
When they arrived to the school, flames were shooting from the yellow brick building.
"When first company on scene, they found heavy fire and heavy smoke in the rear of the building," said Springfield Fire Commissioner Joseph Conant.
The fire quickly spread throughout the vacant building.
"It spread very rapidly up to the front until almost the whole building was involved," said Conant.
"It was everywhere it was coming out of the ceiling you could see it burning in certain spots," said resident Ty Marshal Young.
The fire burned for nearly seven hours.
The poor condition of the four-story building made it difficult for firefighters to battle the flames.
"We really couldn't send firefighters in there and risk getting hurt or killed, so we had to fight it outside which made it tough to get at," explained Conant.
Residents said the school has been a problem spot in the neighborhood for years.
"There's a lot people who go in and out of the building to use drugs and other unnecessary stuff," said Welch.
Conant said because of the heavy damage, it will be some time before the arson squad can figure out who or what caused the blaze.
"It's going to be a while until we get the fire contained to see where it started exactly," said Conant.
Copyright 2013 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
Springfield police have broken up a major marijuana growing operation in the city's Pine Pint neighborhood.More >>