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Small fire disrupts Sallie Z. dismissal

No injuries or major damage reported

Small fire disrupts Sallie Z. dismissal

Small fire disrupts Sallie Z. dismissal

A small electrical fire disrupted afternoon dismissal and after-school programs at Sallie Zetterower Elementary on Wednesday, but no one was hurt and no major damage was reported.

The Statesboro Fire Department responded to the fire at 2:25 p.m. Wednesday, five minutes after dismissal. School buses were loaded, but students and faculty were still on campus for car line dismissal and after-care services.

After thoroughly checking the area around the fire and cutting power to the thermostat, first responders gave the all-clear signal to safely re-enter the building at 2:48 p.m. There were no injuries and no damage to any surrounding equipment, schools spokeswoman Hayley Greene said in a news release.

A school custodians noticed the smoke and pulled the fire alarm that initiated standard fire evacuation procedures. This includes the campus' security vendor automatically generating a call to the school to confirm need and contacting emergency personnel, Greene said.

"A low-voltage heating and air thermostat shorted out and smoked up" the area, said Statesboro fire Battalion Chief Neal Lee. "It was not a true fire."

The fire started in a heating and air conditioning thermostat that was mounted on a classroom wall on the school's prekindergarten through first grade wing, known as the "Swamp" hallway. The room is a self-contained special education classroom that was not occupied by students or faculty at the time, Greene said.

Principal Julie Mizell was on bus duty at the front of the school.

"The school has had three fire drills this school year, including one last Friday, to help prepare students and faculty for emergency situations like this," Mizell said.

Lee added that no matter how minor a fire in a school, "We always evacuate the kids to get them out of harm's way in case there is a fire."

The school system partners with the Statesboro-Bulloch Parks and Recreation Department to manage after-care services for students from 2:20-6 p.m. daily at each of its elementary schools. These personnel are trained by the school system to follow all emergency procedures, Greene said.

Approximately 70 Sallie Z. students were in their care inside the building at the time of the incident, and all were evacuated safely. They returned to the building after about 25 minutes. Because the incident occurred during afternoon dismissal, car line pick up was rerouted to the bus line area at the east side of the building, Greene said.

She added that the special education classroom will be temporarily relocated to another classroom within the building until Bulloch County Schools' Maintenance Department removes the smell and replaces the room's thermostat. Sallie Z. administrators used the school's electronic messaging system to notify parents of the details of the incident.

Staff Writer Holli Deal Bragg contributed to this report.


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