Damage to St. Luke Catholic High School has been estimated at between $500,000 to $1 million after a fire Friday, July 31.
Smiths Falls Fire Chief Rick Chesebrough said an investigation concluded that the fire was started by a mechanical failure in equipment being used by a crew working on the roof of the building. The failure, Chesebrough added, was “propane related.”
Firefighters from four area departments were called to the school after fire broke out around 10 a.m. at the rear of the building at 5 Catherine St., sending a column of black smoke into the air. The source of the smoke was a burning tar trailer belonging to workers.
After starting at the rear of the school, the fire spread to the interior of the building, and firefighters had to enter the school to extinguish the flames.
After numerous 911 calls were received, firefighters from the Smiths Falls Fire Department and the Montague and BBDNE departments arrived on the scene. The Ocean Wave Fire Company and the Perth Fire Department were later called to assist, and the Mississippi Mills Fire Department provided an aerial truck. The Lanark County Paramedic Service, Smiths Falls Public Works, Smiths Falls Police and OPP were also called in.
Approximately 35 personnel altogether responded, and were on the scene for about three hours before the fire was completely extinguished, said Chesebrough. The large number of firefighters was needed because of the high temperature of the fire, and its complexity.
The building sustained extensive damage, said the fire chief, including damage to the roof and two classrooms, along with water damage and smoke damage throughout the building. No injuries were reported.