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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2001

North Baltimore school hit by blaze

NORTH BALTIMORE - While improvement work was beginning at one end of Powell Elementary, a fire was raging on the other.

Firefighters were called to the North Baltimore Local school yesterday to douse a blaze that began in an interior storeroom. The fire was discovered just after 7 a.m., while crews continued working on nearly $3 million worth of improvements to the school.

“This could have been much more serious,” Superintendent Richard Van Mooy said. “The North Baltimore fire department responded very promptly, and the fire was contained to a storeroom with ancillary damage to one classroom.”

Mr. Van Mooy said a classroom adjacent to the storeroom sustained significant water and smoke damage. Firefighters were forced to punch a hole in the roof to dump water on the flames from above.

There was other smoke and water damage throughout the building, but no damage estimate was available. The state fire marshal was at the school to determine a cause, Mr. Van Mooy said.

The storeroom where the flames erupted contained teacher and cleaning supplies and was a hub for electrical wiring, the superintendent said.

“We do not know the extent of damage to our computer system, but nothing irreplaceable was lost,” he said.

The fire was the first for the school, which was in the midst of benefiting from a 3.16-mill bond issue approved by voters in March, 2000. The levy generated $2.97 million to install an updated boiler system, add classrooms, and expand the gym to full-court size.

Construction workers were evacuated from the site, as were two school staff members. About 10 children involved in a summer learning program in an adjacent building were led outside and eventually picked up by their parents.

Mr. Van Mooy said the youngsters were never in danger.

With still more than a month left until the start of classes, school officials said they have enough time to complete the bond project and repair the damage caused by the fire. Students will return to school Sept. 4.

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