Elementary school fire leaves heavy smoke, water damage

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — A small fire has left major damage at an Albuquerque elementary school, now the district is scrambling to keep it from affecting kids.

The fire sparked at Chaparral Elementary School on Saturday morning. Albuquerque Public Schools says the fire didn’t burn much inside of the school, but smoke and water damage have caused a lot of problems that crews have been working around the clock to scrub away.

School officials say the fire started in a storage room attached to the kitchen and cafeteria. While the official cause is still under investigation, APS says it may have been an electrical fire.

But the fire damage isn’t the worst part.

“We had water through the roof running down, it just gets everywhere,” said Brad Winter, chief operating officer for APS.

Winter says the fire caused the sprinkler system to go off which flooded a big chunk of the school including the cafeteria, kitchen, a main hallway and several classrooms. Smoke also flowed into those areas.

“We’ve been out here all night,” said Winter.

Sunday, disaster restoration crews blanketed the school with fans and air purifiers to dry out soaked carpet and clear out the smoke smell. Crews also filled more than three dumpsters full of ceiling tiles, wallboard, ruined equipment.

All of the work is happening at break-neck speed to make sure the school isn’t affected.

“School will be open and students are expected here at 8:55 Monday morning,” said Florence Goldberg, principal of Chaparral Elementary.

In a recorded message for parents on Sunday, Goldberg announced class would run as normal to start the week.

“We don’t want any down time for the classrooms,” said John Dufay, operations director for APS.

Dufay is leading the charge, saying it’s important to keep class normal.

“We will have it clean, the floors will be polished and bright and shiny, you won’t even know we had a fire here unless you’re looking behind the screen,” said Dufay.

A parent with a fifth grader at Chaparral, Christopher Wallace says he’s not worried about the haste.

“I don’t think they’d put the kids in a danger situation,” said Wallace.

Wallace says he’s glad his daughter still has a school to go to.

“I’m glad that’s going to be a safe place for them to go to school tomorrow, sounds like they’ve got everything under control now and they’re getting it cleaned up pretty well,” said Wallace.

APS says even though the school is in the middle of a remodel, no one was working on Saturday when the fire started. Estimates so far put the damage between $180,000 and 200,000. APS says that cost is likely to go as well, as crews still haven’t tested the kitchen equipment that may have been damage.

Chaparral Elementary says because of the damage to the kitchen, students will only be served sack-lunches for the next few weeks. The school says those lunches will be bussed in on refrigerated trucks every day.

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