Source of Wise Elementary fire identified, students sent home - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Source of Wise Elementary fire identified, students sent home

Witnesses at the scene reported students were outside the school building, while at least two fire trucks responded. Witnesses at the scene reported students were outside the school building, while at least two fire trucks responded.
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -

Chapel Hill Independent School District officials have canceled classes at Wise Elementary after a small fire at the school on Thursday morning.

Students were evacuated after 7:00 a.m. as a precaution while a small electrical fire was contained by fire crews. The fire occurred sometime between 1 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and was discovered by a school employee who opened the building in the morning.

School officials say that the fire started in a bathroom which is connected to a classroom. Fire marshals say the school left the vent fan inside the bathroom running all day and overnight, sparking a small fire.

After an investigation on the fire, fire marshals determined it was a mechanical failure on the vent fan that caused the fire.

"The motor locked up and started melting that vent fan and then caught the toilet paper and stuff on fire in that bathroom," said Connie Wasson, the Assistant Fire Marshal for Smith County. "All of the damage is contained to that bathroom."

School officials say the fire didn't spread and was contained in the bathroom. However, soot did collect throughout the bathroom and classroom.

"The smell was pretty strong from the plastic that had melted in there," said Wasson.

School employees have placed fans in the classroom and hallways to air out the smoke smell and to clean out the air, they said.

Students were held in the cafeteria until they were picked up, playing games and being supervised, school officials say.

"Every teacher has a class list and phone contact information that the parent should have left with us on their emergency cards and that is the way we had those teachers make connections to those parents," said Donnie Cook, Superintendent for Chapel Hill ISD.

Deanna Cook, a parent who picked her child up from the campus, had missed calls from the school, but officials had already sent a school police officer to tell her about the fire.

"At first I was a little worried seeing the cop. I was wondering why could a cop be coming to my house from the school and she said there was a fire but I wasn't really worried because she immediately told me he was okay," said Cook.

The school was able to clear all the children out of the school.

"They responded well and got all the kids home safely and quickly," said Cook.

Witnesses at the scene reported students were outside the school building, while at least two fire trucks responded.

No injuries were reported, but the school says the fire alarms did not go off during the fire, and are speaking with East Texas Alarm about the problem.

About 550 students attend school at Wise Elementary School.

Copyright 2013 KLTV. All rights reserved.

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