KENNETCOOK – It could have been a lot different, if it wasn’t March Break.
When custodial staff arrived at Hants North Rural High School for their shift this morning, they immediately knew something was wrong. The halls were full of smoke.
They immediately called 911 and firefighters from several departments, including Kennetcook, Noel, and others, responded.
Debbie Buott-Matheson, spokesperson with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board said she’s grateful it happened when no students or staff were in the building.
She said the smoke was likely the result of work being done to the building’s roof Tuesday.
"The roof decking, where it meets a wall, part of the sheeting got a little over heated is what it looks like, and basically it smouldered,” Buott-Matheson said. “No fire actually broke out, but it was hot enough that it was smouldering and causing smoke.”
She said the ventilation system in that part of the school was turned off while the roof work continues.
“That’s actually a really good thing in this situation, because no air was circulating through the building and feeding that smouldering,” she said.
“(The fire department) determined very quickly that it wasn’t a fire, but definitely that something was hot and definitely something was smouldering,” she said. “They took down some ceiling tiles in and around the area where the roofing was being done just to make sure there wasn’t any fire.
“They left after realizing there wasn’t any open flames and nothing was still smouldering,” she said. “Now it’s up to us to determine exactly what happened with the roofing company and to make sure everything, the smoke, gets cleaned out so the kids can come back next week.”
Buott-Matheson said the fire department was called between 7 and 8 a.m. on March 16.
No one was in the building prior to the custodian’s arrival.
“We don’t know what the exact cause is yet, we’re speculating at this point on what it was, but we’re working with the company to get that solidified and figured out,” she said. “Our health and safety people will go back with the company to make sure there’s safeguards and measures in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
She said there’s no reason people should worry this could happen again when school resumes.
Buott-Matheson said the possibility of smoke damage is still being assessed.
The smoke was primarily contained in the elementary wing, second floor, at the front corner of the school.
“We’re very grateful that it’s March Break and the school population is not what it normal is because these situations take on a whole different flavour when you’ve got students and the entire teaching staff on site,” she said.
The roofing work has been ongoing for about two weeks and should wrap up by the end of March.