The Granite Hill’s high school boy’s locker room caught on fire Thursday, Sept. 13. The fire originated in a student’s locker and still remains under investigation by the Porterville Fire Department.(Maria Corona/September 17, 2012)
Granite Hills High School experienced a great surprise when the students and faculty came to the realization that the fire alarm was not a simple drill.
The school fire during the beginning of sixth period on Thursday, Sept. 13, 2012 was located in the boy’s locker room.
Teachers and students were in the gym preparing to start class when an odor of smoke began to form from the boy’s locker room. Teachers went back into the locker room and recognized a small fire in a student’s locker. The teachers then quickly followed the emergency procedure; pulled the fire alarm and directed all students out of the gym; they then attempted to put the fire out.
As the fire spread, the office called the fire department that fortunately arrived on the scene in a couple of minutes. The firefighters happened to be down on the end of east Putman Street checking fire hydrants and were able to respond in just minutes to put out the fire.
Arriving to the scene were three engines, one patrol unit, two battalion chiefs, an arson investigator from Porterville Fire Department, and one engine from Tulare County.
Everyone was able to evacuate the gym safely and all students and teachers followed the emergency evacuation plan. Approximately 1,100 students were safely evacuated from the school.
“My first reaction was to get all students and staff out of the gym and make sure everyone was safe,” said physical education teacher Bob Ruckman.
The fire was quickly put out, but left behind smoke and small repair damage. A few lockers were reported blacked, but nothing that could not be fixed. Some individual student belongings were burned in the fire and turned into mostly ash.
“I was pretty mad because I had recently bought new shoes and I kept them in my locker; my dad was pretty mad too,” said a Granite Hills junior, “When I went to my locker, everything was basically ash.”
The fire caused $1,500 on damage to the lockers, which will need to be replaced, and about $400 damage to contents and personal belongings.
“We know it was intentionally set,” said Porterville Fire Department Fire Investigator Mitch Sandoval, “But we’re still investigating.”
There were in total eight lockers that were damaged by heat and water.
“We will continue investigating next week. There are still individuals we need to talk with,” said Sandoval, “The structure did not burn, but there was smoke-stained damage to the walls.”
Rich Lambie, physical education teacher at Granite, attempting to extinguish the fire, was taken to Sierra View District Hospital and was treated for smoke inhalation. Lambie went immediately after the incident and returned back to work the next day.
“We are planning to go after whoever started the fire and put our staff and students in a very dangerous position,” said principal of Granite Hills Apolinar Marroquin, “We are proud to announce that everyone was safe and was able to return back to class by the end of the day.”
The fire incident remains under investigation by the Porterville Fire Department.