A decorative candle left unattended by a Langston Chapel Elementary School teacher Tuesday morning caused a fire, but no students were in the classroom at the time, and no one was injured.
Bulloch County Schools Public Relations Specialist Haley Greene said Bulloch County firefighters responded to the school around 8:55 a.m. Tuesday. The teacher, who had taken her class to the media center for library time, returned to the classroom to discover the blaze.
Greene called the incident a "minor fire" caused by a plastic sleeping mat falling onto the burning candle. LCES Principal Karen Doty called 911 after the teacher reported the fire, she said.
The fire occurred in one of the pre-kindergarten classrooms. "The Bulloch County Fire Department, Superintendent Lewis Holloway and Bulloch County Schools' maintenance personnel responded within minutes," she said
"With help from LCES Assistant Principal Joe Goodwin, the two quickly put out the fire with a nearby fire extinguisher before firefighters arrived," she said."Firemen then dealt with the resulting smoke in the classroom and immediate hallway."
Smoke alarms in both Langston Chapel Elementary School and Langston Chapel Middle School sounded due to the smoke, which initiated standard fire evacuation procedures for both campuses, she said.
"We practice fire drills monthly, so I am very pleased with how our students and personnel responded," Doty said.
Within 15 minutes, LCMS students were allowed back into the middle school wing to resume classes, and elementary students were "taken to the cafeteria and multipurpose room to await clearance from firefighters and complete removal of smoke from the pre-k classroom, hallway and three classrooms in the immediate vicinity," Greene said.
All classes were back to normal by 10 a.m., she said.
The classroom where the fire occurred, as well as adjacent rooms affected by smoke, were closed for the rest of the day. Students usually housed in those rooms were relocated to temporary areas.
The classrooms are expected to be back in use today, she said.
"Damage to the facility was limited to a small cabinet on which the candle was sitting, three plastic sleeping mats and several ceiling tiles," she said. "No student furniture or technology was damaged."
While the Bulloch County Board of Education currently has no "written policy" governing the use of candles, Greene said it is "common fire safety procedure that everyone practices at home and at the workplace" to never leave candles burning unattended.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.