Shop fire closes regional voke school

WAKEFIELD – A vocational school is closed Wednesday after a two-alarm fire in the school’s carpentry shop severely damaged the roof above the shop and sent smoke spilling into the rest of the school.Wakefield Fire Department Chief Michael Sullivan said the fire, which is still under investigation but he believes is accidental, started at about 5:20 p.m. Tuesday in the carpentry shop of Northeast Metro Tech school. No one was injured, but he estimated damage at $500,000.Sullivan said at least one teacher and several other people were working in the shop when it’s likely that a spark from a piece of equipment got caught up in the shop’s saw-dust collection system, a series of ducts, and spread to the roof, igniting flammable insulation in the roof.Sullivan said the fire spread quickly and destroyed the roof above the shop.”It was a pretty significant fire,” he said.Smoke from the fire, exacerbated by the smoldering plastic materials in the roof, quickly spread into the rest of the school, where a varsity basketball game was taking place and possibly several night classes were beginning, Sullivan said.”It might as well have been during the school day for the amount of cars that were in the parking lot,” he said.The school’s fire-alarm system went off, and when firefighters arrived, the parking lot was filled with people who had evacuated the school, he said.”The school was very occupied at the time,” he said.Firefighters spent the next five hours battling the fire, a labor-intensive process that Sullivan said required firefighters to peel back the roof and remove the duct system to get to the burning insulation.Most of the responding firefighters returned to the Wakefield Fire Department by 10:40 p.m., but Sullivan left one engine to stay at the school overnight in case anything else sparked.He said the entire roof of the carpentry shop needs to be replaced and there is possible smoke damage in the rest of the school, causing school officials to close down at least for Wednesday.”It was pretty clear they couldn’t have school today because they’re in cleanup mode,” he said.But school officials are grateful no one was injured and that the fire department responded so quickly, said Superintendent Ted Nickole, of the Regional Vocational School District, which Northeast Metro Tech is a part of.”It could have been a lot worse; they did a great job,” he said. “They really averted a potential disaster because they were so quick.”Nicole said cleaning crews are clearing soot from at least six classrooms adjacent to the shop and will know by 4 or 5 p.m. Wednesday if the school can re-open for classes Thursday. The shop itself will be closed much longer for repairs, prompting offers from nearby techincal schools to accomodate shop students, Nicole said.He said the damage, while extensive, is small in comparison to the worst-case scenario.”No one got hurt,” he said. ” ? That’s the thing you can’t replace, so we count our blessings that way.”A notice posted on the school’s website informed parents, teachers and students to check back later in the day for updates.Amber Parcher can be reached at [email protected]

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