Heat is out at Jefferson Middle School after electrical fire

Monday, February 3, 2014 | 3:35 p.m. CST
Columbia Firefighters respond to a call at Jefferson Middle School early Monday morning. The fire was electrical.

COLUMBIA — Electricians for Columbia Public Schools are assessing the damage and looking for the source of an electrical fire Monday morning at Jefferson Middle School.

Several callers to 911 reported hearing a loud bang and seeing sparks and smoke rising from the roof of the school at 713 Rogers St., according to a news release from the Columbia Fire Department.

Firefighters arrived at the school at 6:02 a.m. They found a "large electrical fire" on the outside of the northeast corner of the school, the release said. They isolated the area and notified Columbia Water and Light.

Assistant Fire Chief Terry Cassil said that once the power was shut off at 6:42 a.m., the fire went out by itself. Since the fire was electrical, flames were not burning the whole time. 

There was no fire or fire damage inside the building, the release said, but there was light smoke throughout it. Crews were working to remove the smoke odor, the release said.

The smell just inside the school about 8:30 a.m was acrid and smoky but not overwhelming.

Charles Oestreich, director of facilities for Columbia Public Schools, said the heat is out at the school.

That is not an issue for students Monday because the public schools are closed because of hazardous road conditions, according to an announcement from the district.

"Our primary focus is to get heat running again for this afternoon and tonight," Oestreich said. That will require getting the boilers back up and running, he said.

The high temperature for Monday and Tuesday is forecast at 27 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

Oestreich estimated that about 6,000 feet of wire were damaged in the fire. None of it will be easy to replace, he said. 

Oestreich said that since the majority of the damages are to the outside of the building, the speed of repairs will depend largely on weather conditions. 

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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Mike Bellman February 3, 2014 | 12:08 p.m.

Charles Oestreich is a fantastic project planner. Believe him when he says he will work hard on the logistics of this repair. I'm glad to have worked with him professionally in the past.

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