Pen High students evacuated Friday

Penticton Secondary vice-principal Jeff Guy (at right, in black) directs students back to their classes after a small electrical fire forced the evacuation of the school. - Steve Kidd/Western News
Penticton Secondary vice-principal Jeff Guy (at right, in black) directs students back to their classes after a small electrical fire forced the evacuation of the school.
— image credit: Steve Kidd/Western News

Students at Penticton Secondary found themselves out in the cold this morning on their main field after a small fire forced the evacuation of the building.

Fire chief Wayne Williams said the fire appeared to be due to an electrical fault in one of the halogen lamps that light the common area in the centre of the school. While the school was being evacuated, staff members used up five fire extinguishers putting out the fire.

“Everything worked the way it is supposed to: someone noticed it, the alarm went, the school was evacuated,” said Williams.  “All the kids are outside right now, so we are trying to get them back inside where it is a little warmer.”

School officials don’t believe the small fire at Pen High is indicative of a larger problem with its lighting devices.

"I think this is the only place where we have those particular fixtures,” said Doug Gorcak, the Okanagan Skaha School District director of facilities.

“As it stands right now, we have everything shut off in that area.”

Gorcak said he’s been told the electrical components within the fixture itself caught fire, but expects the city’s electrical inspector and personnel from the B.C. Safety Authority will be able to say more precisely after taking a closer look.

“If these fixtures have caused problems elsewhere, I’m sure they’ll know about it,” Gorcak said.

This isn’t the first fire at the school, which burnt down in 1949, but Williams said it appeared there hasn’t been a problem for a long time.

“I’ve heard some of the school staff today comment that in over 20 years this is the first fire they have had,” said Williams.

Williams said the evacuation seemed to go well, and staff and students handled the situation properly. One teacher commented that students were already anxious, with many of their assignments due today in advance of exams, which start next week.

“I think it went really well. There are probably a few children that are really cold outside, we’re trying to get them back inside now,” said Williams. “They have backup plans too. If it was going to be for an extended period of time, they have other buildings they can take them to where it is warm.”

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