Smoke Forces Students out of School in Schuylkill County

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SAINT CLAIR -- Smoke at a school in Schuylkill County forced the evacuation of the building Wednesday morning.

Firefighters were called to Saint Clair Area Elementary/Middle School around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Three and four-year-old Head Start students were just getting ready to eat their breakfast when a teacher in the classroom suddenly smelled smoke and alerted the superintendent who quickly pulled the fire alarm.

"We always put the safety of the students first and that is exactly what happened today. Our safety protocols worked extremely well," said Superintendent Jason Bendle, Saint Clair Area School District.

Within minutes, the building was evacuated.

Hundreds of students walked about three blocks and ended up at the nearby St. Clare of Assisi Church. Parents were allowed to pick up their children.

Firefighters said a transformer for a dehumidifier in the ceiling failed and overheated, causing a small fire in the ceiling. Crews prevented the fire from spreading and thanked teachers for following protocol.

“They practice as required by law clearing everybody out of there really quick and closing the doors which confines the smoke to that area,” said Asst. Chief Thomas Johns, Saint Clair Fire Department.

About 200 students were picked up by parents, the rest were allowed back in the building after firefighters gave the all clear at around 11:30 a.m.

There is slight smell of smoke in the classroom, but firefighters were able to limit the damage.

A technician is expected to check the dehumidifier system in that room on Thursday and make any repairs.

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