Russellville elementary school fire causes at least $300,000 in damage

The fire started in the computer lab.

Posted: Nov 12, 2019 3:07 PM
Updated: Nov 13, 2019 7:50 AM

Students at West Elementary School in Russellville will be out of class for another day because of a fire.

The fire broke out inside a computer lab, just before 2 a.m. Tuesday morning.

West Elementary on Clay Avenue is home to about 700 students who are now out of school for a few days.

WAAY 31 went to the school on Tuesday to survey the damage.

Black soot could be found all over the school. The computer lab where the fire started is just about destroyed with melted equipment and black soot all over the room.

"Waking up from your sleep and hearing that, you think the worst," said Russellville City Schools Superintendent Heath Grimes. "You see how much of the school it could have spread through, so we're really fortunate."

Grimes hasn't slept much since officers came to his house when the fire started. He is trying to be positive and showed us how the firewalls in the computer lab helped stop the flames from spreading. However, what did spread is soot. It's throughout the school and is one of the reasons students won't be back for a few days.

"I think we can get students in by the end of the week. I'm not sure if it will be all students or all day, but we're working on a plan that we can have students back on campus by Thursday or Friday," said Grimes.

Grimes said part of the plan is to clean the school in sections and allow students only in the cleaned spaces. The cafeteria has a lot of smoke damage and sack lunches will be provided when students return. Grimes estimates the structure repairs alone will be expensive.

"Three hundred to $400,000 easily," said Grimes.

That estimate doesn't include the damage to technology. Grimes said the computer lab is a part of their STEM projects where students learn to code. Most of that equipment was lost.

"We do have mobile chrome carts and we will get those back out so they can start working, but we did have about three of those damaged and that's about $8,000 a cart," said Grimes.

The fire and water were all contained to the computer lab. Grimes credits firefighters for getting to the scene quickly and saving the rest of the school from damage. He said the support from firefighters, police and the mayor's office is incredible.

The mayor and community members were at the school in the middle of the night to help assess the damage.

"People are really gracious here and a lot of pride in our schools and it shows," said Grimes.

Grimes said it's going to take about six months to get this entire computer lab remodeled, repaired and have things back to normal.

We will keep you updated on when students will go back to West Elementary. Fire investigators don't believe the fire is suspicious and they are working to determine how it started.

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