Updated: No injuries in fire at Monticello school
Updated 3:50 p.m. Thursday.
MONTICELLO — A fire in a boys restroom at Monticello's Washington Elementary School forced the evacuation of about 350 elementary and 125 high school students from the building at about 12:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon.
No injuries were reported. The fire chief said he believed it was not an accidental fire.
Monticello Fire and Rescue personnel were able to put out the fire with hand-held extinguishers, but not before it damaged the ceiling of the bathroom, a light fixture, and caused some possible smoke damage in a room across the hall.
"When we got here, there was soot all over the floor," said Fire Chief Rick Dubson. "When we opened the door, smoke just rolled out and across the hallway."
Windows were opened and fans brought in to draw smoke out of the school. The 350 elementary school students who had been taken to a high school gym were able to return to their classrooms by 1:30 p.m., but high schoolers who use six classrooms in a hallway near the bathroom were not allowed to use those rooms the remainder of the school day.
The high school and Washington schools are on the same campus at Monticello.
Dubson said the fire apparently started in the toilet paper dispenser of one of the bathroom stalls, burned the plastic enclosure and a light fixture, and spread soot throughout the room. Soot also spread to some of the duct work, and there was also some water damage in the bathroom.
He also stated his belief that "this was not accidental."
Fire and police officials are looking for the cause.
School officials sent out a phone message to parents through its School Messenger service.
A fire alarm alerted staff to the fire.
"We evacuated all kids outside, then when we found there was a fire, moved them to Moore Gym at the high school," said Superintendent Vic Zimmerman. He said the restroom is in the south hallway of Washington Elementary, but is used primarily by high school students who use the classrooms nearby.
He said a cleaning company was on-site Thursday afternoon and that smoke and soot did not get into the classrooms used by high school students, so they will be available on Friday.