School officials say Saks High structurally safe after fire
by Brian Anderson
Jun 17, 2013 | 4425 views |  0 comments | 117 117 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A county schools official today said Saks High School was safe for maintenance workers to begin cleanup after a weekend fire, but there was no estimate yet on the cost of damage.

Mike Fincher, director of safety for Calhoun County Schools, said an engineer determined Monday afternoon the building was structurally safe, but that the damage still was being assessed.

“I was up to my ankles in ash from ceiling tile,” Fincher said, explaining several second story classrooms’ ceilings were destroyed in the fire. “It’s a mess.”

Fincher said the second floor and roof of one of the school’s four buildings received “significant damage” from the fire, and would require a replacement in some areas.

After reviewing surveillance footage at the school from Sunday morning, Fincher said state Fire Marshals determined the fire began in a utility closet around 2 a.m., likely from an electrical short. The flames spread throughout the second floor after a natural gas line ruptured during the fire.

Maintenance employees working on lunchroom floors at the school smelled smoke and felt the heat of the fire when they went to the school around 8 a.m. Sunday, and alerted the Anniston Fire Department.

Although the fire was contained on the second floor, Fincher said, maintenance work will be required for the entire building, which houses the cafeteria, office, library and several classrooms.

“Every portion of the building was affected in some way,” Fincher said. “Every office, classroom, the library, the cafeteria, received some type of smoke damage, and some rooms received heat damage, and some received significant heat damage.”

Fincher said the damage could have been even worse had the maintenance workers not been scheduled to work Sunday.

Crews will begin cleanup in the next few days, but there is no timeline in place for maintenance work and damage assessment, Fincher said.

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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