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Fire in air unit prompts evacuation of schools
Langston Chapel Elementary, Middle not damaged; no injuries reported
013015 LCES FIRE 02
An air-conditioning unit that caught fire caused Langston Chapel Elementary and Middle schools to be evacuated briefly Friday. - photo by SCOTT

Watch raw video from the scene here.

Students were evacuated Friday when a heating and air conditioning unit caught fire behind Langston Chapel Elementary School.

Statesboro firefighters responded around 11:45 a.m. to find the blaze at a unit outside the fifth-grade hall, said Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County school system's public relations and marketing specialist.

Because the school shares a cafeteria with Langston Chapel Middle School, students, staff and faculty from both schools were evacuated as a safety precaution, she said.

In less than an hour, firefighters extinguished the blaze, and students were allowed back inside. Classes resumed, and no injuries were reported.

LCES Principal Shawn Haralson said fifth-grade students were starting to transition back to class after lunch.

The fire was discovered when a teacher came to one of the empty classrooms and smelled smoke. She alerted the office via radio, Greene said.

The assistant principal and principal reported to the area, witnessed smoke beginning to enter a classroom, pulled the fire alarm, and called 911, she said. Students were evacuated to the front and rear of the building.

"Public safety personnel were on the scene within minutes to respond to the fire ... (and) set up a staging area for parents and aid faculty in ensuring student safety," she said. "Upon further inspection by Haralson and firefighters, it was found that a motor in an air unit at the back of LCES's fifth-grade wing was pouring smoke and shooting flames."

Firefighters extinguished the fire, confirmed the building's safety, and after approximately 40 minutes, they gave the "all clear" for faculty and students to return to both buildings, she said.

"This was absolutely the best emergency placement of personnel that I've ever seen," said Haralson in a statement released afterward.

LCES's fifth-grade wing was closed for the remainder of the school day. Administrators temporarily relocated fifth-grade classes to the middle school gymnasium, which has bleacher seating, Greene said.

The classrooms only sustained smoke damage and no structural damage. The rooms will be open for students on Monday, she said.

Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.


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