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Fire breaks out in Red River High School addition

Grand Forks' Red River High School was evacuated Wednesday morning after a fire broke out in an addition under construction on the south side of the school.

Grand Forks firefighters work from an aerial platform to extinguish flames
Grand Forks firefighters work from an aerial platform to extinguish flames on the new theatre addition at Red River High School Wednesday. (Herald photo by Eric Hylden)

Grand Forks' Red River High School was evacuated Wednesday morning after a fire broke out in an addition under construction on the south side of the school.

No one was injured and the fire was contained before it caused serious damage to the structure.

The Fire Department was called to the scene at 10:20 a.m., and Battalion Chief Mike Sandry said the fire was under control within 30 to 45 minutes, but firefighters were on the scene until about 3:30 p.m. checking for hot spots and doing follow-up work.

There was no threat of the fire spreading to the school, he said, but the evacuation was done as a precaution.

It began at 10:52 a.m., said Superintendent Larry Nybladh, and by 11 a.m. the school's 1,150 students were out.

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Most left in their vehicles, as school and after-school activities were canceled, he said. Nearby Eagles Arena, the school's evacuation relocation site, was opened and 125 students moved there, but were picked up by friends or parents within 45 minutes.

Sandry said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The fire broke out on a roof on the building's east side and spread up the east wall to another roof, according to Superintendent Larry Nybladh. While the wind made for a tougher job for firefighters, it did blow water and smoke away from the rest of the school, he said.

It appears roofing material or insulation material caught fire, he said, but that there has been no confirmed origin from the fire marshal.

A crew from Pierce Roofing and Sheet Metal out of Fargo was in the process of putting a hot tar built up roof on the building, but they weren't in the building when the fire started.

The $9.4 million project is set to house the Red River Performing Arts Center. It was 40 to 50 percent complete, according to project supervisor Don Bernhagen from Fargo-based Gast Construction.

"Basically, we're just looking at the structure, the shell of the building," he said.

Both the school district and the contractor carry insurance, Nybladh said, and once the cause is determined, a claim will be made to one of the companies working on the building.

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Timetable changes

There doesn't appear to be any structural damage, Bernhagen said. "Initially, we'll have to repair the roof and replace the insulation on the east side of the building," he said.

"The roof was the last thing to do to get the building enclosed and then they could start the inside work," said Bill Hutchison, business manager at the Grand Forks School District.

Construction started in mid-May and was scheduled to be completed in mid-July of this year, he said, but now he expects that date to be pushed back.

Bernhagen said he doesn't have a timetable on how the fire will affect the project's completion date. "It's pretty hard to say, until we survey the situation," he said. "It depends on the extent of the damage. It appears as though it won't be significant. We'll have to do some replace and repair. Only time will give us that answer."

Bieri is a Herald staff reporter. Reach him at (701) 780-1118; (800) 477-6572, ext. 118; or send email to cbieri@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: FIRES
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