Savannah classroom building goes up in flames

By Lynda Figueredo - bioemail

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Students and staff at a west Savannah lementary school are shaken up after learning a fire ripped through their portable classroom early Wednesday morning.

Teachers and staff try to comfort a fifth-grade teacher at Gadsden Elementary school as she stands in front of her charred classroom.

"She is heartbroken, because we had all the books, the desks, the resource materials, student work, things that can not be replaced," said Principal Dr. Deborah R. Jones. "She is a trooper, she is an outstanding teacher. We will move on."

Just before 5 a.m. Wednesday, a portable classroom building located just behind the school caught on fire.

"I saw a ball of fire shooting up into the air," said school volunteer Jody Hall, "I didn't know where it was."

When firefighters arrived, they found smoke billowing into the air.

"Unites saw fire coming through roof of the trailer, so it already invented itself," said Captain William Handy.

Within 10 minutes they were able to put out the blaze, but the two classroom units didn't make it. The main classroom that housed 15 fifth-graders was completely destroyed, while the connecting resource room suffered significant water and smoke damage.

"Definitely a feeling of loss," said Principal Dr. Jones. "We have lost a classroom students are accustomed to being in every single day, but it could have been worse."

Investigators believe this heater located in the backside of the portable classroom sparked the blaze. The school principal says she is just thankful the fire happened before young lives were inside of the classroom

"If we had to have a fire, I would prefer that it happened as it did 5 a.m., when we didn't have students or staff at risk," Jones said.

Nearly three hours after the blaze began, students and staff arrived astonished to find the charred skeleton of a classroom building. School went on as usual.

Shortly after arriving at school and seeing one of their classrooms destroyed by fire, the students participated in statewide tornado drill.

Teachers and staff say practice makes perfect, so why not practice a plan that could save a life. The drill was part of Severe Weather Awareness Week.

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