Head Start building burns

No one hurt, but facility considered a total loss

A teacher who smelled smoke coming from a bathroom fan at a Head Start preschool in Fruitvale did all the right things to ensure that a dozen students got out of the burning building to safety, according to the Clifton Fire Department.

A modular building that was used as a classroom at 3172 1/2 Glen Dam Drive is considered a total loss. Firefighters doused flames and hacked into the roof after an electrical fire started at about 10 a.m., Clifton Fire Department investigator Chris Rowland said.

The school’s unattached front building, which contains a kitchen and other amenities, was not affected by the fire.

A teacher attempted to contain the fire with a fire extinguisher before calling 911. As she helped students evacuate, she grabbed a book filled with parents’ phone numbers, then called the parents to retrieve their children, said Judy Lopez, the director of Western Slope’s Head Start.

“We practice drills every month, so nobody really panicked,” Lopez said. “Our main concern was to let parents know.”

A dozen students, a teacher and a volunteer were in the building when the fire started, Rowland said.

School was cancelled Wednesday, but classes will resume today.

Rowland said the electrical fire started near a fan and a light. The building had been inspected at the beginning of the school year, and the fire alarms worked Wednesday. The building is not equipped with sprinklers, but it didn’t need to be, according to code, Rowland said.

The school’s modular building is newer than the front building, which is about 15 years old, Lopez said.

Lopez wasn’t sure whether the fire damaged the classroom enough to require a new building or if it could be rebuilt.

Classes will continue in the school’s front building, and it’s fortunate there’s only two months left in the school year, so officials can decide what action to take, Lopez said.

The school is one of six Head Start sites across the Western Slope.


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