October 31, 2014

Medina
Rain
42°F

UPDATED: Fire causes evacuation of Highland Middle School

GRANGER TWP. — An early morning fire inside Highland Middle School evacuated students and faculty but resulted in no apparent injuries.

The blaze was reported at about 8:20 a.m. today. At least 40 firefighters were ventilating the facility with fans after the evacuation to clear smoke.

Law enforcement officers look on as firefighters exit the Highland Middle School gym during today's fire at the school. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

Law enforcement officers look on as firefighters exit the Highland Middle School gym during today's fire at the school. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

“We had some flames inside the school with most of the smoke coming from the gym,” said Bob Dalziel, a captain with the Granger Twp. Fire Department.

Dalziel noted that there were no injuries among students, staff or firefighters. The cause of the fire was unknown, and firefighters were continuing to search each room in the school as a precautionary measure, he said.

About half the students were evacuated this morning to the football stadium bleachers behind the school, and the other half went to a cafeteria across the road from the burning school, according to Jeff Rollyson, the Highland Hornets’ head baseball coach.

“The kids exited quickly, and we went through attendance pretty (fast),” said Rollyson, who is also a health and physical education teacher at Highland Middle School.

Rollyson, who was teaching a class when the fire was reported, said smoke appeared to originate in the boys locker room of the school gymnasium, which filled quickly with smoke.

“It smelled a lot like (burning) rubber in there,” he said.

Dawn Marzano, spokeswoman for the Highland Local School District, said the evacuation of the school’s approximately 820 students in grades 6 through 8 went smoothly. Staff members and students have practiced fire drills already this year, she said.

“They got out quickly and safely. They were very effective,” Marzano said. “They’ve obviously practiced this many times before.”

Primary fire and smoke damage was visible in the middle school gymnasium, adjoining locker rooms, some classrooms and hallways, Marzano said. Teachers were permitted to enter the school this afternoon to retrieve car keys and personal items.

Students prepare to walk to football field bleachers after evacuating Highland Middle School this morning due to a fire. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

Students prepare to walk to football field bleachers after evacuating Highland Middle School this morning due to a fire. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY STEVE GRAZIER)

The school district notified families about the fire through an automated phone system this morning, Marzano said. Parents were told that students can be picked up early today at Highland High School, which is at 4150 Ridge Road, Medina, just down the street from the middle school. Highland Middle School is located at 3880 Ridge Road.

Marzano said students not picked up early will spend the rest of the day at the high school.

“Quite a bit of kids have already gone home,” she said.

Tuesday classes for middle school students and staff has already been canceled, Marzano said. The district will wait on whether to cancel classes for any additional days of the week.

“I think it’s pretty much going to be day-by-day, since we don’t have a determination of the cause (of the fire),” Marzano said. “We’ll wait for the firemen to do their investigation.”

All middle school sports and extra-curricular activities are canceled for today and Tuesday, Marzano said.

Agencies at the Highland fire included the Sharon Township, Wadsworth, Granger, Hinckley, Bath and Medina Towship fire departments. The Medina County Sheriff’s Office and Medina Life Support team were also on scene.

Gazette Staff Writer Maria Kacik Kula contributed to this report.

Contact Steve Grazier at (330) 721-4012 or at sgrazier@medina-gazette.com.