Fire at Menomonie High School kills 37 animalsThe fire, which started shortly before 5 a.m., broke out in the animal science lab where animals ranging from rabbits to geckos to turtles to a hedgehog were housed. Students studied them as part of an animal science class.
By: By Pamela Powers, The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, Superior Telegram
MENOMONIE -- A Monday morning fire that killed 37 animals and caused more than $100,000 in damage at Menomonie High School could have been much worse had the north side of the school where the fire started not been constructed almost entirely of concrete and had hallway doors been open to vent the fire.
Instead, those doors were shut, and the nonflammable nature of the building kept it contained, officials said.
The fire, which started shortly before 5 a.m., broke out in the animal science lab where animals ranging from rabbits to geckos to turtles to a hedgehog were housed. Students studied them as part of an animal science class.
No people were injured in the fire.
Menomonie school district Superintendent Chris Stratton said the high school's design helped prevent the fire from spreading. The fire was contained to the location where the small animals were housed.
Luck and the construction of the building helped contain the fire, said John Entorf, Menomonie Fire Department battalion chief.
Stratton expressed sadness at the loss of the animals. A pot-bellied pig named Rosie, who was in an outside pen, was the only animal to survive.
"It's always difficult to experience any kind of loss of life," she said.
The fire department was called to the fire at 4:52 a.m. Monday by a passerby who saw smoke. Fire department officials are unsure how the fire started but said a heat lamp used to warm a snake may have caused the blaze. Extension cords and wires also were at that location.
"We will probably never be able to tell where it started exactly," Entorf said.
The fire caused the closure of the high school Monday. Classes are expected to resume today.
The school sustained smoke and water damage, mostly to the building's north end. One classroom was destroyed, Stratton said. Insurance will cover the fire damage, Stratton said.
On Monday firefighters vented the school. Air handling units had soot in them, Entorf said.
"There is a lot of clean up," he said.
Agriculture classes will move to other parts of the building.
Powers can be reached at 715-556-9018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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