Quick response saves Ridgecroft

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 5, 2008

AHOSKIE – Blessed. Lucky. Fortunate.

There are many ways to describe what happened Monday night at Ridgecroft School when a fire broke out in the ceiling, but due to quick response time, the blaze was confined to a small bathroom.

The fire originated from electrical short in the exhaust fan in the girl’s bathroom located on a hallway near the school library.

“We were very fortunate it happened when the cleaning crew was working,” Ridgecroft Headmaster Elton Winslow said. “Their prompt action saved a lot of damage to the school.”

According to Winslow, the cleaning crew was in the main school building at approximately 6:30 p.m. Monday when Lorraine Curley came into the commons area and noticed the lights were off in the girl’s bathroom.

“She went over to turn the lights back on and realized they were on, but there was no power,” Winslow said. “She then saw flames coming from the ceiling and the floor.”

Since Curley was holding a wet mop, she used it to extinguish the flames before calling Ridgecroft Upper School Director Doug Cobbs and 911.

“The fact Lorraine was able to extinguish most of the flames was certainly important,” Winslow said. “Also, we appreciate how quickly the Union Fire Department was here to take care of everything. The quick response by both the cleaning crew and the fire department saved us a tremendous amount of damage.”

Chris Smith, the assistant chief of the Union Fire Department, said the department received the call at approximately 6:50 p.m. and responded with two units and 13 people. They also called in the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department for backup. Ahoskie Rural brought two vehicles and approximately 18 people.

“Most of the fire was contained to the girl’s bathroom,” Smith said. “Luckily the exhaust fan fell out of the ceiling which stopped a lot more damage because it didn’t stay up there and build a lot of fire and heat. There was some, but could have been much more.”

Smith said he called in the Ahoskie Rural Fire Department because he was concerned the fire could have been worse than anyone realized.

He added that most of the approximately two hours spent at the school were due to trying to get the smoke out of the main office and library.

“We are thankful to the local fire departments for coming as quickly as they did as well as Doug, who is our first responder, for being on the scene in just minutes,” Winslow said.

The school was closed for all students except pre-school on Tuesday as a precaution to make sure all of the smoke smell was out of the building and to give time to fix the restroom.

“The bathroom is back together and functional,” Winslow said. “The building is cleaned up and we are back to business as usual.”

He said there were some ceiling tiles that would still be replaced and other minor work to be done, but most of the restroom is already repaired.

“I appreciate James Askew, Peggy Byrum and Lorraine coming out Tuesday and cleaning up so we could get back to business as usual,” the Headmaster said. “They did a yeoman job yesterday in getting things cleaned up.”