An early morning fire Sunday damaged the interior of a trailer at Grant Elementary School.
The trailer is normally where John Nies teaches his fifth-grade class, but after the flames were put out there was little left to salvage from its charred interior.
Columbia firefighters responded to the scene at 5:40 a.m. after an automatic smoke-alarm alerted them to the fire, said Steve Sapp, a battalion chief for the Columbia Fire Department.
Heavy smoke billowed across Broadway, and firefighters spent 15 minutes getting the flames under control, Sapp said. The fire started along the east wall of the trailer but no cause has been determined, Sapp said. He added that arson did not appear to be the cause.
“Our fighters found out the source of the fire along the wall and were able to knock it down pretty quickly,” he said.
Despite the damage, the trailer was still standing, said Lynn Barnett, assistant superintendant for Columbia Public Schools. No one was injured.
Barnett was on hand as Nies went through the process of removing personal items from his former classroom.
Beverly Borduin, the principal at Grant, also came to check on the condition of the structure.
“It’s tragic, but everyone’s safe,” Borduin said.
Borduin said she was called about the fire and arrived as Columbia firefighters tried to extinguish the blaze.
“The Fire Department was absolutely fantastic. They were right on it, here, taking care of everything,” Borduin said.
Sapp said the estimated damage was around $70,000 but will likely be a total loss.
“There was a direct projector, a smart board, two computers and other electrical equipment in there,” Sapp said. “There is also a lot of smoke damage.”
The parents of students in Nies’ class have been called, and an e-mail to rest of the school’s parents will be sent today, Borduin said. She added that a science classroom inside the school is available and will be used when the fifth-graders return from winter break on Wednesday.
Nies said he was able to gather only one box of possessions. Reflecting on the damage, he joked that he now has fewer items now than he had during his first year as a teacher.
Sami Baugher, one of Nies’ students, and his family came to Grant after getting Borduin’s call. Baugher peered through the windows, trying to get a look at the damage to his former classroom.
Borduin said she is happy the fire did not happen while class was in session.
Besides Borduin, 10 other teachers and staff members came to help Nies try to remove personal items from his classroom and from students’ desks.
“That’s Grant School for you,” Borduin said. “John has a great attitude, he can teach with nothing.”
Missourian reporter Sally Morrow contributed to this report