Oliver RCMP are now in charge of investigating a fire that destroyed most of South Okanagan Secondary School this morning.
“We are involved at this time but it is way too early to tell what exactly happened,” said Cpl. Jason Bayda. “We handle all fires in this area until they are deemed not arson.”
Firefighters were called to a blaze around 2 a.m. Monday morning that is believed to have started in or near the older part of the school.
“We are in a mop up stage right now,” said Oliver fire chief Dan Skaros, at 9 a.m. “Most of the flames are knocked down and we lost most of the old school. We did save the new gym, the northwest gym and most of the new cafeteria. Most of the new construction was saved but the library is gone. We think it started in the old east wing on the school.”
Oliver fire department received backup assistance from Okanagan Falls and Osoyoos fire departments, which each sent one truck. Skaros said there were 25 to 30 firefighters who were on scene fighting the blaze.
“The older part of the building was a tough one for us because it is a really weird design and the six foot crawl spaces on top made it a hassle to get in there and get out,” said Skaros.
School District 53 have told students and staff that the school is closed today and to watch their website and local media for regular updates. Oliver Elementary School and Tuc-el-Nuit have not been affected and will continue their regular day of school.
“We are just making sense of it all. It’s pretty devastating,” said School District 53 superintendant Bev Young. “We are looking at coming up with a plan to relocate students and seeing what parts of the school might be accessible down the road. We want to look at all our options and get a handle on areas that are not damaged and what access we would have to them in the coming weeks.”
Young said out of the new construction it appears the science and technology wing could be saved, although smoke and water damage hasn’t been assessed.
Almost $30 million of provincial funding was given to the school district for renovations along with the construction of an addition. The renovations included 14 new classrooms, special education and counselling rooms, food and textile labs, a graphic arts room, a science lab, an art room as well as a new general office, washrooms and a multi-purpose room.