Heating unit fire forces school closure

'No active flames or fire in the unit when it was discovered'

Campbell River kids who attend Penfield Elementary got an extra long Thanksgiving weekend this year after a fire forced the school to close for the day today.

At approximately 7 a.m., when principal Hendrick Horsthuis arrived at his school, he was greeted not by empty halls waiting to be filled with laughing children but by smoke and acrid fumes.

“He immediately called 911,” according to School District 72 Superintendent Tom Longridge, “and the fire department was there almost immediately.”

The fire was found to have been contained within an electrical heating unit in one of the classrooms, Longridge said.

“There were no active flames or fire in the unit when it was discovered,” Longridge said. “It had put itself out by the time the principal arrived, but due to the acrid smell and lingering air quality situation, we determined to close the school for the day to both investigate and so that no students or staff could be affected by the smoke.”

Longridge said there will now be both an internal and likely an independent investigation, “to see what we can learn from this,” and determine if any changes need to be made to prevent another incident like this from happening.

Children whose parents didn’t know the school was closed were supervised on site by teachers who had arrived for work also not knowing the situation.

“We made sure that those students who did arrive were taken care of and returned home safely,” Longridge said.