Eisenhower fire draws 7 VFDs

BRIAN FERRY

KILEY FISCHER

bferry@timesobserver.com

A report of a fire at Eisenhower Middle/High School attracted a lot of attention Wednesday night.

Five volunteer fire departments in Pennsylvania and two from New York responded to the scene after the call went out at about 7:30 p.m.

When firefighters arrived at the scene they could smell smoke, but they couldn’t find the fire.

A search of the building turned up a small fire.

The fire was found in between walls in the new addition where construction crews were working on steam pipes earlier on Wednesday. A janitor called in the fire on a cell phone.

Lander Volunteer Fire Department Chief Darryl Bergstrom said the initial crew at the fire had both a fire extinguisher and a hose. They applied a small amount of water to the fire and extinguished it almost immediately.

However, there were still sparks from an unknown source rising into the ceiling.

“The good news is that we’ve got a small fire,” Bergstrom said. “The bad news is the way it’s packed in.”

An examination from the floor and the roof was not enough. “We’ve been above it,” Bergstrom said. “We’ve been below it.”

They needed a look in between.

Firefighters had to find special tools to cut a five-foot hole in the rubber roof in order to determine whether or not the fire had spread to the void between the ceiling and roof.

“Apparently they caught a piece of the roofing on fire somehow,” Bergstrom said. “The wind blew it back into the art room area. That’s why we were having so much trouble.”

Warren County School District Director of Buildings and Grounds Services Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht said that section of roof would have to be repaired, and he was hoping to have it done as soon as possible.

“I’m trying to get a roofer on Thanksgiving Day,” Kennerknecht said.

Principal Kelly Martin provided a complete set of building plans to Bergstrom. He sent those plans to the firefighters inside the building to assist in their search.

There were about 20 firefighters inside the building at about 9 p.m.

“From what I can tell, it will not affect school opening on Tuesday,” Bergstrom said.

The crews released after 10 p.m. Bergerstrom said the cause of the fire is “undetermined and unsuspicious.”

Crews responding to the call came in from Lander, Sugar Grove, Russell, Starbrick, North Warren, Busti and Kiantone.