(Stafford, Kan.) -

Fire investigators were on scene Sunday morning of an overnight building fire in Stafford.

The fire broke out at the former high school there sometime before 10 Saturday night. A patrolling officer with the police department spotted it around 10 p.m. and paged a crew out.

Firefighters from Stafford County, Great Bend, Hudson, along with others were called out to fight the fire.

"We had small fires south of here for two blocks from all the embers, it was starting grass fires everywhere," said Chief of Police Doug Brown, who said his property was also burnt by an ember. "We were just overwhelmed very quickly."

Chief Brown said at least a dozen other fires started from flying embers. He's lived in Stafford his whole life and graduated from the high school that is now a total loss. He said he's never seen a fire this large in the city.

"There are 14 on our city fire department and we were overwhelmed the minute it started," he said. "We couldn't attack it from the inside because it was just too dangerous."

He said the fire seemed to have started on the third floor. That floor then collapsed as the burning continued.

A resident said the school has been vacant since 2000.

"I graduated from this high school, I think most everybody in town has graduated from this high school," said Deana Eisenhour. "It's hard when you have a building of this size, I mean it's massive."

Chief Brown said this is now a criminal investigation and has turned it over to the fire marshal. He said a cause is still not known at this time, but said no utilities were connected to the building so there wasn't any electricity to spark it.

Stay with Eyewitness News throughout the day for updates on the investigation.