Fire heavily damages Lake Clifton-Eastern Ground-floor fire spread through ceilings

January 30, 1995|By Richard Irwin | Richard Irwin,Sun Staff Writer

A four-alarm fire last night extensively damaged a large section of Lake Clifton-Eastern Senior High School , and classes for 2,229 students were not held today.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Donna Franks, a spokeswoman for the city school system, said the staff was to report to Harford Heights Elementary School in the 1900 block of N. Broadway.

It was not immediately known how long classes would be disrupted, said Ms. Franks.

The fire, said Battalion Chief Hector Torres, broke out either in the school's ground-level cafeteria or library and quickly spread through the ceiling, where it destroyed or heavily damaged administrative offices and several other rooms and filled the south end of the school with smoke.

At one point, the fire broke through one wing and threatened to engulf the commons area but was stopped by firefighters who entered the building from the south side.

Had the fire reached the commons area -- a circular section where students gather and hallways lead to many classrooms -- it would have spread down the hallways and damaged a large number of classrooms, offices and perhaps the school gymnasium, Battalion Chief Torres said.

Damage was estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Shortly after 2 a.m., an anonymous person reported the fire by telephone.

As firefighters approached the school from St. Lo Drive at 2:05 a.m., they saw flames reaching into the dark sky and ordered a full first alarm sounded.

The second alarm was sounded at 2:11 a.m., the third at 2:17 a.m. and the fourth at 2:30 a.m.

No injuries were reported.

In all, 130 firefighters manning 45 pieces of equipment responded to the fire.

As the fire broke through the cafeteria ceiling, it entered a first-floor hallway and went from office to office, setting the contents on fire and destroying everything in its path as it raced toward the commons area.

A prevailing northerly wind prevented the flames from entering other sections of the building.

However, some fire and smoke entered the front entrance area. Fire filled the ceilings, sending smoke throughout much of the building.

Firefighters had little trouble entering the front of the building as they broke the glass doors. But other firefighters, trying to enter the cafeteria from ground level and the first floor, were hampered by cement columns at their backs and narrow window openings.

Window frames were destroyed to make room for the men and their equipment.

Other windows were covered with a metal mesh and somewhat resisted the fire axes.

As ground units battled the fire, at least two aerial towers poured tons of water onto the building from above.

Police said they had no reports of any burglar alarms going off in the school, causing them to believe the fire began through some sort of mechanical failure.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.