Fire crews responded to a fire today at the Bethel ME school, which houses pre-school through second grade.
Crews went out at about 12:20 with 3 firefighters, a water truck, an ambulance, and 2 additional city water trucks. Bill Howell is a captain for the Bethel fire department. Upon arrival, he says they found that a detached second grade classroom, Portable #4 was showing smoke.
“We found the building to be charged with heat. We had a heavy fire in one of the restrooms and firefighters at the scene were able to extinguish it before it caught the rest of the building on fire,” said Howell.
Early reports indicated that that it was possible that not all were accounted for, but school leaders and fire crews soon had everyone counted. One person was sent to the hospital to be checked out for smoke inhalation.
The students were evacuated from all of the detached classrooms. ME School Principal Joshua Gill says a quick response by the teacher proved critical.
“Mrs. Hoffman could not have done a more perfect job. This was a very hot fire, a very quick fire. I credit Mrs Hoffman. She saved those kids’ lives. She got them out of the building.she kept them calm, she did a great job,” said Gill.
Gill says the building is likely a loss and they are working to find another classroom for Thursday’s class. No flames escaped the bathroom, but Captain Howell says the heat and smoke were enough to cause damage in the classroom.
“Everything inside the building was damaged with smoke, much of the inside was damaged by heat, a lot of the expense of the fixtures and furnishings were damaged, things like smartboards, projectors,” said Howell.
The exact cause of the fire is still under investigation. The fire department could not say whether or not it was started by a person. The students were all ok, but several of their coats were too smoky to wear home. Gill says they did finish off the school day.
“We did a lot of games to keep the spirit up and keep the worries down. Staff did a great job of collaborating together,” said Gill.
The fire department is continuing its investigation into the cause of the fire.