An early-morning fire caused $1 million worth of damage at Elmwood Elementary School yesterday, forcing Baltimore County education officials to look for other classrooms for some kindergartners and first-graders scheduled to start school next month.
School officials said they expect to have a plan today for students whose classrooms were damaged in the fire. First-graders return to school Sept. 5 and kindergartners two days after that. Officials said they don't think the classrooms can be repaired by then.
Eight classrooms were damaged in the fire at the Overlea school, two by flames and six by smoke and water. The cause of the fire appears to have been a malfunctioning fan that was being used in an asbestos-removal project, said Lt. Glenn Blackwell, a spokesman for the Fire Department.
No one was injured.
Seven of the rooms were used for kindergarten classes and the eighth for first-graders, said Charles A. Herndon, spokesman for the county public school system.
At the time of the fire, workers from Retro Environmental Corp. of Sykesville were in the middle of a two-week project to remove asbestos from the building, Herndon said.
Officials received a call about 6:10 a.m. about a fire in the rear wing of the building. When firefighters arrived, they found the fire mostly confined to two classrooms. Materials being used by the asbestos-removal crew made fighting the fire difficult.
Plastic curtains had been hung in the hallways to contain the asbestos fibers. "Those curtains limited the movement of firemen," Blackwell said. "There was a lot of melted plastic in the hallway."
The fire was under control at 7:30 a.m., he said.
Herndon said there are funds in the school budget to pay for repairs but that Retro Environmental will have to pick up those costs if fire officials determine that the company was negligent.
About 500 students are enrolled at Elmwood Elementary, in the 500 block of Dale Ave.
Among the options school officials are considering are installing portable classrooms at the school and sending students to another school until repairs are complete, Herndon said.