A fire that broke out at a Riverhead High School portable classroom Sunday afternoon appears to have been caused by a mechanical failure in the unit’s heating unit, according to a Riverhead fire marshal.
“It’s definitely not a suspicious fire,” said fire marshal David Andruskiewicz, who is investigating the fire.
About 100 people had to be evacuated from the main building at the high school when an ESL classroom caught fire about 1:45 p.m., just before the Riverhead Blue Masques were about to begin a production of “Bye, Bye Birdie,” school superintendent Nancy Carney said.
The fire inside North Portable No. 3 destroyed the classroom, with flames seen coming through the roof, fire officials said. No one was inside the classroom at the time of the fire and no one was injured.
Riverhead Fire Department public information officer Bill Sanok said more than 70 firefighters from the Jamesport, Flanders and Eastport fire departments all responded to the blaze. Firefighters contained the fire within 30 minutes.
Ms. Carney said several computers, a smart board, books, desks and other classroom materials destroyed in the fire.
“I think its going to be a total loss,” Mr. Andruskiewicz said. “There’s a lot of damage to the trusses up in the ceiling. The roof trusses are definitely compromised.”
The fire marshal said insurance investigators are currently at Riverhead High School to determine the full cost of the damage. But Mr. Andruskiewicz said the fire could have been worse had it spread to the nearby portable units, which weren’t damaged by the fire.
“The fire department did an excellent job of containing that fire,” he said.
“We’re very thankful to the Riverhead Fire Department and surrounding departments,” Ms. Carney said. “Thank goodness the fire departments got here so quickly and, most importantly, no one was inside.”
The play was cancelled after the fire, but has been rescheduled for Sunday, January 17 at 1 p.m.. Tickets from Sunday’s aborted performance will be honored at the show, and an employee at the school said they would not be charging for tickets for the upcoming show.
Photo credit: Vera Chinese