Smoke leads to school evacuation



Students and faculty at Brownstown Central Middle School returned to class shortly before 10 a.m. Monday after smoke in the school forced them to evacuate to Brownstown Central High School.

The smoke was reported in the sixth-grade wing by staff and students at the school at 520 W. Walnut St., and fire alarms went off at 8:13 a.m. Monday, two minutes before the school day was set to begin.

“At that point, we immediately evacuated because we knew it wasn’t a fire drill-type situation because it wasn’t something you’d typically plan just before the start of school,” Principal Doug McClure said.

The smoke was isolated to that wing of the building, and smoke was not detected anywhere else, he said.

Brownstown Volunteer Fire Department was on scene and used an industrial fan to blow smoke out of the hallway and classrooms in the area. The school’s exterior doors were opened on both ends of the hallway and windows in classrooms also were opened to get smoke out of the school.

The smell of smoke filled the classrooms and hallways. A computer lab in the wing had a layer of fog before firefighters blew the smoke out with the fan.

McClure said students and staff reacted calmly to the situation as they evacuated the school.

The cause of the smoke remains under investigation, but officials believe it had something to do with a heating and air conditioning unit.

“What we think happened was the motor on the roof, one of our HVAC units, began smoking,” McClure said, adding he had not been told what the official cause of the smoke was. “We’ve called for assistance to diagnose that issue.”

The school’s 362 students and about 30 faculty members were outside for approximately five minutes while officials tried to determine the cause of the smoke before police closed town streets and walked students to Brownstown Central High School.

“With the temperatures in the 30s, we didn’t want to keep the students out there for long,” McClure said of the decision.

Brownstown Central Community School Corp. Superintendent Greg Walker was at the school and watched as firefighters used the fan to blow smoke out of hallway and classrooms.

“This is why we have fire drills once a month,” he said before walking through classrooms to inspect for smoke and open windows.

McClure said the students observed a two-hour delay schedule to accommodate the hour-and-a-half loss on the school day.

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