THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
Oconto School $5 Million Fire
Investigation continues to determine the cause of a fire that caused an estimated $5 million in damages to Oconto High and required an estimated 300 students to hold classes at Oconto Middle School.
The fire was discovered about 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 16, coming out of a boys restroom. Students were quickly evacuated and there were no injuries.
The fire was quickly extinguished by the Oconto Fire Department but the heavy smoke from burning partitions in the restroom created a thick heavy black smoke which drifted throughout the schools ventilation system and hallways.
Classes were suspended and there was no school on Thursday and Friday. On Monday, April 21, students began holding classes in the Middle School, which once held 800 students before an elementary school was constructed.
A work crew of over 200 persons has been retained to clean up and scrub smoke and soot from walls, ceilings and other surfaces in the school. It is estimated that students could return to the high school about May 12.
It was reported the school has fire insurance and will only cost the district about $5,000, which is the deductible on the policy.
There was good news for students as the prom will still be held on Saturday, April 26. It will now be held in the gym of the Bond Community Center.
Since the fire, the Wisconsin Chapter of The National Fire Sprinkler Association, Inc. put out a news release claiming Oconto Fire Chief Jack Minarik reported there are no fire sprinklers in the building and no smoke alarms present in the boys restroom.
It also quotes a retired fire official, Dan Gengler, who represents the association, who reported the lack of fire sprinkler protection in the building put occupants at risk or injury or even death from smoke inhalation.
The news release concludes that school boards in Wisconsin should provide the best fire protection available to protect students, staff, visitors and firefighters who respond to fire calls. Also, schools must be proactive in retrofitting their buildings with fire sprinklers before one of these school fires ends in tragedy.