Chemainus Secondary School evacuated, classes cancelled due to fire

A fire Thursday morning at Chemainus Secondary School that led to evacuation and closure of the facility is being investigated as suspicious.

The fire, which was confined largely to a student washroom, was noticed about 9 a.m. and led to the cancellation of classes for the rest of Thursday and today. The school’s staff and about 350 students watched from outside as crews from the Chemainus, Crofton and Ladysmith fire departments contained the blaze.

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No one was injured.

There was considerable smoke but not much water damage resulting from the fire, said Cowichan Valley School District spokesman Mike Russell. The Cowichan Valley School District sent a notice just after 11 a.m. saying the fire was out.

Police and fire experts examining the aftermath couldn’t get into the school for some time because of the amount of lingering smoke.

Buses arrived at 11 a.m. to transport students home via regular bus routes, and parents were alerted in case they wanted to pick students up.

Information on how personal belongings can be picked up from the school will be sent out by the district once it has come up with a plan. “While I’m concerned that this fire may have been deliberately set, I’m grateful that our students and staff were able to make it out of the building safely,” said district superintendent Robyn Gray. “I am also extremely grateful for the quick response of our local community fire departments.

“As for the investigation, we will assist the RCMP where we can in order to get answers and closure on this event.”

Acting Cpl. Dave Starr of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP said police attended as soon as they heard about the fire.

He said police are working with the Cowichan Valley School Board and the fire departments “to establish how and why this occurred.”

jwbell@timescolonist.com

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