November 26, 2012

Winthrop middle school evacuated after electrical mishap

By Craig Crosby ccrosby@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WINTHROP -- The middle school was evacuated Monday when an electrical short in the ventilation system sent smoke wafting into a teachers' room.

Fire Chief Daniel Brooks said no one was hurt and students and faculty returned to the school by mid-morning after a technician confirmed the smoke was caused by an electric motor attached to the ventilation system.

"All the kids followed the evacuation plan in an orderly way," he said. "They did an excellent job."

Teachers at the middle school on Rambler Road pulled the fire alarm around 8:30 a.m. after staff in a teachers' office smelled smoke, Brooks said. A custodian removed ceiling tiles in the office and discovered more smoke.

"It kind of filled the area with a bad smell and that room with some smoke," Brooks said.

Middle school students and faculty evacuated to the high school, which is a few hundred yards away. Activating the fire alarm automatically shut down the ventilation system.

Brooks, who happened to be at the high school, said he was at the middle school moments after the alarm was activated. Firefighters searched the building with heat-detecting cameras and opened up additional ceiling tiles, Brooks said.

"We pretty quickly determined there was no fire," he said. "We were on scene for a while trying to determine exactly where the problem was."

A ventilation technician called to assist with search found the faulty motor and disconnected it, Brooks said. The ventilation system was turned back on and students returned to the building. Firefighters left around 10 a.m.

Investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office were called to the school, a requirement whenever a fire alarm is activated at a school for any purpose other than a drill.

Brooks said the incident was explained to students had a brief assembly upon their return to the building and Principal Karen Criss used the gathering to commend the students for their response to the alarm.

"We evacuated the building in a matter of moments," said Superintendent Gary Rosenthal. "It was a flawless movement right up the hill. The kids knew exactly what to do; the staff knew what to do."

Rosenthal said workers made repairs Monday, and that students assigned to classrooms where smoke lingered were moved to another part of the building.

Craig Crosby -- 621-5642
ccrosby@mainetoday.com

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