Classes were disrupted on Wednesday by a small fire in the boys bathroom on the third floor of Hanover High School. Fortunately, no students or staff were injured and school was resumed after a 40-minute interruption.
The fire was discovered during third period (which lasts between 9:30am and 10:10am on Wednesdays) by staff member Erik McEwen, who had gone to use the bathroom in the math department hallway on the third floor. He recalled smelling smoke and then “seeing a fire inside the paper towel dispenser”. McEwen then said that he quickly went to the classroom across the hallway to alert others about the fire.
Warren Tucker, the math teacher responsible for putting out the fire. Many HHS students are grateful.
Math teacher Warren Tucker was the first to be informed by McEwen. Tucker confirmed to the Broadside that he saw a fire in the paper towel dispenser and “black smoke trickling out from below”. He then said that he ran downstairs to find a fire extinguisher, forgetting that one could be found on the third floor. After finding one, he dashed back to the third floor to put out the flames. “I blasted the fire twice before it went out,” he recalled, mentioning that the bathroom became “very smoky” afterwards.
Students wait in the gym while the fire department investigates.
The fire alarms, according to Tucker, went off three minutes later, just before 10:00am. All students were evacuated outside, where they waited for several minutes in the cold. The students were then moved to the gymnasium, where they waited until about 10:40am. In the meantime, the Hanover Fire Department arrived on the scene to assess the building. After the fire department determined that the lower floors of the building were safe, Principal Justin Campbell informed the staff and student body about the fire (causing some students who thought that their math classes were cancelled to cheer, only to moan upon discovering that they were rescheduled) and released them to attend regular classes.
Firefighters check up on HHS following the bathroom fire.
While parts of third period classes and the activity/Council period were interrupted, later classes mostly went on as usual. However, access to the third floor (and therefore the math department) was blocked while the area affected by the fire was cleaned, so most math classes were moved to downstairs classrooms. Students who had math classes during third period were given time to reclaim the possessions that they had left behind during the evacuation, although an announcement given over the PA system instructed students not to consume any food or drinks that had been left on the third floor due to the chemicals that had been released by the fire extinguisher. The administration also suggested that students wash out any water bottles that had been on the third floor at the time of the incident.
The third floor of Hanover High was closed off to students for the remainder of the day after the fire.
According to Campbell, the school administration expects the third floor to fully reopen on Thursday, January 18th. He mentioned that the school’s custodial staff was busy “[ventilating] the smoke and [cleaning] up the dust and debris” before saying, “Our custodial staff did incredible work!” In a separate school-wide e-mail, Campbell wrote, “I was very impressed by how well behaved our student body was throughout the event.”
The cause of the fire is still not entirely known. When asked, Campbell stated that he does not yet know how the fire started. He added, “It’s my hope that anyone with information will come forward. The fire did not happen spontaneously.” The school administration and the Hanover Police Department are each running their own investigations into the matter.