Local News

Investigators Isolate Cause of Johnston County High School Fire

Posted January 28, 1999

— Fire investigators have determined what caused an early morning fire in a mobile classroom at Smithfield-Selma High School.

The blaze started shortly after five o'clock Friday morning in a mobile classroom on the western part of the campus.

Smithfield Fire Marshal Patrick Harris says a bird's nest sparked the blaze. The nest was in a heating unit mounted on the side of the building, up near the roof. The pine straw was close enough to the unit's heater to start a fire that damaged the building.

Firefighters put out the flames, but not before the classroom was engulfed; chairs, books, and electronics were destroyed.

The school had abandoned all of its mobile units last week and moved into a new building, so classes were held as usual, despite thousands of dollars worth of damage.

School leaders are just thankful no one was hurt. "We have fire drills, and sometimes we wonder why we do that," says Smithfield-Selma's Don Woodard. "They're not just fire drills. They're really necessary. This just proved that none of us is immune to fire."

Investigators say there is a lesson to be learned: you don't have to see a fire hazard to be affected by it. They're warning schools county-wide to keep a close eye on their campuses, especially on their mobile classrooms.

"We'll certainly get some paperwork out, reminding folks to be careful and the maintenance people can be sure that they clean these things out and that nothing's been deposited in those areas," Harris says.


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