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UPDATE: Fire damages science room at Minnewaska High School

GLENWOOD — Fire sprinklers did their job at the Minnewaska High School Thursday night and helped contain a fire to a science room.

"Damage is fairly minor," said Superintendent Greg Schmidt. "We're thankful it was limited to one room and no one was hurt."

Most of the damage was caused by smoke and water in the east academic wing of the one-story building, which houses the district's 4-12 graders.

As a precaution to prevent students and staff from experiencing physical problems from the lingering smoke, all the classes were cancelled Friday in the district.

"It made a lot of sense to keep kids out of the building," Schmidt said.

According to Starbuck Fire Chief Todd Johnshoy, a call at around 8:20 p.m. from a custodian at the school, as well as an automatic fire alarm, brought the Pope County Sheriff's Department and fire departments from Starbuck and Glenwood to the scene.

When crews arrived flames were visible in the science lab but were quickly extinguished, Johnshoy said.

"The fire sprinkler system suppressed it and we went in and mopped up," Johnshoy said. "Without the sprinklers there would've been a lot more damage."

Schmidt said it appears the fire was contained to a work station cabinet in the science room and the ceiling tiles above it.

Johnshoy said the water damage was contained to a couple classrooms.

"The biggest problem is the smoke," Johnshoy said. "Once you open up a building like that, it went through the hallways."

Johnshoy said the cause of the fire was "undetermined" at this time and that a Fire Marshall was on the scene until about midnight investigating the blaze.

Schmidt said possible causes of the fire are suspected but he didn't not want to comment until the Fire Marshall's report was completed.

Schmidt praised the firefighters and law enforcement for their quick response and for getting the smoke out of the building.

The district's insurance agent was expected to be on the scene Friday. Schmidt said he didn't think the financial cost for the cleanup and repairs would be significant. "But certainly it's a little disconcerting it happened."

He said it's expected that classes will resume Monday.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

(320) 894-9750
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