Vincent Massey school evacuated after minor fire

A fire engine sits in front of Vincent Massey Community School Wednesday. Arthur White-Crummey/Daily Herald

A small fire broke out at Vincent Massey Community School Wednesday, prompting the safe evacuation of hundreds of students.

According to Battalion Chief Gerald Parks of the Prince Albert Fire Department, the fire broke out shortly before noon. He said that someone left a cardboard box unattended on a stove burner.

“The burner heated up and started the box on fire,” Parks said. “But the fire was contained to the stove and the box itself.”

Staff used dry chemical extinguishers to put out the fire, the fire department reported.

Sgt. Travis Willie of the Prince Albert Police Service said officers mounted a major response when they got word of the incident. He said police shut down the entire school. But they soon determined that the fire was “100 per cent accidental.”

Most importantly, each and every child was brought to safety.

“Everything happened the way it’s supposed to happen,” Sgt. Willie said. “Everyone got out safe.”

The school did not sustain any significant damage. Parks said the damage was “minor,” while Robert Bratvold, the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division’s director of education, said it was limited to the community room where the fire started.

“We had some appliances, furniture, cabinets and things that would have suffered some smoke and fire damage,” he said. “We’ll have to ventilate the entire school to make sure we ameliorate the air quality.”

Bratvold said the roughly 380 students who attend Vincent Massey will resume classes on Thursday. The community room, however, will be out of commission for “several weeks.”

Wednesday was only their second day of school, and staff were still processing registrations. That could have made accounting for individual students difficult. But Bratvold said the evacuation went smoothly. All students were quickly shuttled out, and almost all were reunited with their parents within the hour.

“Everything seems to have gone really well, especially considering there would not have been time for any substantial fire drill practicing,” he said. “Every teacher has a brand new group of students in their classroom.”

Bratvold said his staff responded very well. He also thanked emergency services for their prompt response and professionalism.

“The care they took with senior staff and the teachers on the ground supporting the kids, it was exemplary,” he said. “We’re blessed to be in this community with that level of experience among or first responders.”