Just after 10 a.m. Wednesday morning, the Kitimat Fire Department responded to a fire at Mount Elizabeth Middle/Secondary School (MEMSS).
The fire occurred in a section of the roof over the larger of the school’s two gymnasiums.
Witnesses at the scene said roofers were doing some patching on the roof of the gym, when a paper material at the edge of the roof caught fire, and went down inside a section of the wall, but the Kitimat Fire Department said they can’t confirm the cause of the fire at this time.
“Just talking with witnesses and contractors that were there, there was some work being done to the roof, just one section of the roof,” Fire Chief Trent Bossence said. “[The paper catching fire] is definitely a possibility that we’re looking into, in sense of how it started or what happened. But at this time I can’t say if that was the actual cause of the fire, but obviously there was some construction activity that we’ll be looking into, as well.”
Bossence said they were initially called for reports of smoke, then noticed the flames coming out of the section of the roof upon arrival.
“We didn’t really fight it at the start,” Bossence said. “We need to find out where it was and where it was going and kind of go from there.”
Bossence said that a thorough investigation into the incident will be conducted, so they can better clarify the cause of the fire and the extent of the damage.
“Overall when you look at the size of the school, it’s really just a small portion of the gymnasium roof structure that got damaged. But when you look at the roof structure, itself, the damage was quite extensive considering that there was sprinklers in the attic, as well,” Bossence said. “So, due to the fire, the damage from the fire itself on the actual structure of the roof, as well as the water damage from the sprinklers going off and, of course, us putting water on, trying to extinguish the fire, it turned out to be an extensive amount of damage to that section of the building.”
Bossence said there was one person who needed medical assistance upon arrival, but he was treated and released at the scene and did not need to be taken to hospital.
MEMSS Principal Christine Byrd said she arrived at the school just in time to hear the fire alarms go off.
“I heard the alarm and contacted maintenance right away,” Byrd said. “And then in just a few minutes [the Fire Department] was here.”
Byrd said she was very impressed with the Fire Department’s response to the incident and thankful they were able to act so quickly.
“I’m just really grateful to [the Fire Department],” Byrd said. “Obviously, it’s contained, which is such good work.”
The Fire Department was on scene from just after 10 a.m. to around 2 p.m., putting out the fire and checking over the scene, afterwards. Twenty personnel and three firetrucks were part of the response.
Going forward, Bossence said he’s unsure how the damage will affect the usage of the school come September, but they’ll know more once the investigation is complete.
“A lot of it’s going to depend on what the engineers come back and say regarding the actual structure that was damaged, as well as the water damage, [and] how much damage the water’s going to do to the gymnasium floor and whatnot,” Bossence said. “So it’s hard to say the extent of the damage in terms of cost and/or of time when it will be repaired.”
Bossence said the investigation into the fire is likely to start tomorrow, Aug. 13.