Officials: Cause of Reed City High School fire undetermined

REED CITY — Fire which originated from a custodial closest near the Reed City High School gym caused an undisclosed amount of damage on New Year’s Eve. Steven Westhoff, superintendent of Reed City schools, said that at about 5:40 p.m. Monday, alarms went off at the school and went into 911.

“When our fire department responded, it indicated we had a fire in one of our custodial rooms that happens to be off of our gymnasium,” he said. “The fire department was able to get in and put that fire out; they certainly did a good job and responded very quickly.” But, Westhoff added, there was a “great deal” of smoke damage experienced in the gymnasium area, the tunnel behind it and locker rooms behind the tunnel and some of the upper gym areas in the building.

A COLD DUTY: Fire crews stand outside the school in the cold air as they wait for the fans inside the school to clear out the remaining fumes from the smoke caused by the fire that originated in the custodial closet.

“There is a fair amount of smoke damage that exists,” he said. Westhoff said no one was in the building at the time of the fire. “We don’t know exactly the cause at this point in time,” he said. “We just know the location of where it started and we still need some analysis that needs to be completed before we can determine the cause.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what that might mean to certain sports activities. “Right now, it means we’ll have to look at alternate locations when it comes to activities,” Westhoff said. “We’ll certainly try to get some people in to help with some restoration and cleanup as quickly as we possibly can. We aren’t going to make any decisions until we know how far we can get in the next four or five days. “School is scheduled to come back and be in session Jan. 7. But we have to make sure the building is safe and the environment is safe and all the issues and concerns are dealt with at that point in time.”

SMOKE DAMAGE: Fans blow air up towards the smoke that still lingers on the ceiling of the building in an attempt to dissipate the fumes.

A wrestling invitational is scheduled at the school on Saturday. Varsity and JV girls and boys home basketball games are scheduled for next week with the girls hosting Lakeview Jan. 8 and the boys entertaining Chippewa Hills Jan. 10. The athletic department has used the Reed City Middle School gym frequently for high school practices. The middle school gym was also used two years ago for a home varsity boys and girls basketball game because of leakage issues with the high school gym.

“We feel very fortunate to be able to respond so quickly and to be able to get in and get things under control,” Westoff said. “Everything seems to be in the gymnasium area but there was smoke that moved through the building. We have a substantial amount of cleanup.” Responding were the Reed City, Hersey and Lincoln Township fire departments. “The cleaning crew left here about 2 p.m. this afternoon,” said Reed City fire chief Jim Decker, saying it was too hard to say how long the fire had been going before the departments responded.

The fire remains under investigation, Decker said.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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