Early morning fire destroys wing of Idaho high school

Apr 21, 2023, 7:37 AM | Updated: 12:32 pm

POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — An early morning fire destroyed part of a large high school in the southern Idaho city of Pocatello on Friday.

No one was injured in the fire, but Pocatello Fire Department Assistant Chief Shane Grow said one wing of Highland High School was completely destroyed. The wing housed the school’s cafeteria, gymnasium, choir and band rooms, and it had severe structural damage including a collapsed roof.

Still, the Pocatello School District said in a memo to parents that it appears the fire doors between the other wings of the school operated properly, preventing the fire from spreading.

It’s not yet clear how much smoke and water damage occurred to the rest of the school, but at least two other wings have “significant water on the floor surface,” the district said.

“We wish we could have saved the entire school but feel good that we’ve kept the fire from spreading to the other wings,” Grow said.

The fire was reported just before 4 a.m., and when firefighters arrived they found flames showing above the building amid heavy snowfall. Grow said an investigation into the cause of the fire would begin once the smoke clears.

The school has roughly 1,500 students, making it one of the largest in Idaho. School district officials canceled classes until Tuesday and said they would switch to remote learning then until classes can resume in-person. Standardized testing set for next week has been postponed and Idaho State University is now hosting the school’s prom, set for Saturday.

Officials are working with the district’s insurance company to replace any personal property that was destroyed in the fire, and trying to come up with plans to handle school lunches for the rest of the year, the district said in a memo to parents.

Grow said he does not expect any part of the school to reopen before the current school year ends in June.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little said he was working with Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield and local officials to determine the district’s needs.

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Early morning fire destroys wing of Idaho high school