Fire guts Eastwood offices & bus garage PDF Print E-mail
Written by PETER KUEBECK and MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Staff Writers   
Monday, 27 January 2014 12:05
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Firefighters work to put out the fire at the Eastwood High School bus garage early Saturday morning. (Photo: Shane Hughes/Sentinel-Tribune)
PEMBERVILLE - An insurance representative visited the Eastwood School District Saturday afternoon to assess the destruction of structures from an early morning fire Saturday.  PHOTO BLOG
Classes in the district were canceled today.
The bus garage and Central Administrative Office, which shared a building, have been destroyed.
The district's mechanic will work out of the Lake Schools garage, and the transportation department and district office staff will work out of a temporary trailer that arrived Sunday.
"Our biggest challenges at this time are network connections for our buildings, data recovery, transportation communication, and phone service. Those are all vital to getting school up and running for the kids. It will take us months to try and put things back together again from the central office perspective, but we need to get the kids in school," Superintendent Brent Welker stated in a community email sent Saturday night. 
He would not speculate this morning whether classes would resume Tuesday, but he did indicate it was unlikely because of the frigid weather forecast.
He said the biggest challenge today was trying to get the network infrastructure back up and running.
He thinks the transportation communication issue is solved but they need to restore communication to the buildings.
All building phone lines went through the board office.
He said workers are rushing to complete tasks today because of Tuesday's forecast.
Welker also indicated in the email he is considering having students in class Presidents' Day, Feb. 17, to help make up lost days, and also use online lessons as well.
Using the holiday will leave the district three days to make up in June if classes don't resume until Thursday.
"We're hoping to get back (to school) by Wednesday," said Denis Helm, school board president.
He said the mode of teaching might change, "but we'll make it."
According to Helm, three trucks - two with plows - were parked in the bus garage. The rest of the district's fleet was parked outside.
The fire was reported in the garage around 7:30 a.m. and spread to the central office.
Troy Township Fire Department called for mutual aid from Middleton Township for a tanker at 7:48 a.m.
Chief Randy Woodruff of the Troy Township department indicated that between 50 to 60 firefighters at any one time fought the blaze for nearly seven hours in the frigid conditions.
He said that, as yet, a cause has not been determined for the blaze, and a financial estimate of damage was not available this morning.
Crews from Troy Township arrived on-scene at 7:37 a.m., and at that time there was heavy fire reported in the northwest corner of the bus garage. Later, crews from Pemberville, Lake Township, Perrysburg Township, Middleton Township, Woodville and Wayne were also called.
Winds played havoc with the efforts to fight the blaze - Woodruff said the gales were strong and shifted numerous times, causing firemen to go into what he described as "defensive mode."
Additionally, the cold at times made it difficult to keep the pumps from freezing.
They were able to protect a nearby structure used by the wrestling team.
Buses got moved out of the way, but a couple have damaged windshields because of the heat, Helm said.
The buses were backups and not used on regular routes, Welker added.
"We really appreciate (Lake's) offer to use their bus garage for maintenance," Helm said.
Woodruff said that early on, firefighters were able to get into the attached administrative offices and retrieve vital items include computer towers, books, and school records.
"They did get quite a bit of stuff out of the administrative offices before we had to stop that effort."
The temperatures and conditions took their toll on the firemen. One Troy Township firefighter reportedly slipped on the ice and sprained his wrist. While not seriously injured, he was taken to the hospital for X-rays. Others reportedly suffered twisted ankles, or slipped and fell.
The school assisted the firefighters by providing accommodations for them.
"Between the auxiliary for the fire department, and there were countless school staff members, faculty and others that responded," said Woodruff. "They actually opened up the high school building for us and got us into the cafeteria where we could take care of, from our standpoint, rehab, where we check blood pressure and what-not and warm up. They had coffee and food. We could cycle people in and out to keep them fresh."
"It's going to be a substantial loss, for sure," he said.
"We had the maximum amount of insurance on the buildings," Helm said. To his knowledge, the district has not received a loss value yet.
He said he was unaware of what information was lost from each department in the office, but said that everything that went through he Northern Ohio Educational Computer Association (NOECA) is OK.
The school board meets tonight a 7 in the high school study hall and recovery efforts will be discussed.
Last Updated on Monday, 27 January 2014 12:53
 

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