Fire breaks out near school construction site

Flames were contained to construction area and did not reach the interior of the building. No injuries were reported.

Steven Curto and Ben Wieland, JagWire assistant editor and MVNews editor in chief

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Update: Friday, June 7 at 12:27 p.m.

According to an email from principal Tobie Waldeck, smoke worked its way inside the building last night. The school is currently working with the Shawnee Police Department to clear all smoke and its smell from the building. All indoor events at the school on Friday, June 7 and Saturday, June 8 are cancelled.

According to a statement from the Shawnee Fire Department, the fire was caused accidentally by demolition crews working on the north end of the school. Fire Marshal Corey Sands said that debris from the roof including roof insulation pieces was piled up against the school’s wall by demolition crews. This debris insulated the fire for several hours.  

Update: Friday, June 7 at 2:53 p.m.

When the Shawnee fire department received the alert of a fire at 9:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6 they dispatched a fire truck from the station, which 2019 graduate Mya Johnston drove behind at the intersection of Monticello and Shawnee Mission Parkway.

“I was behind the fire truck on it’s way to Mill Valley and I wasn’t sure where it was headed until I saw the smoke in the sky above the school,” Johnston said. “It was around 9:30 p.m., but the first thing that came to mind was that I hoped there were no teachers still inside.”

Johnston was extremely saddened when she initially saw the fire and principal Tobie Waldeck run from his home toward the burning school.

“Seeing the school that I now say I ‘attended’ in flames was actually really sad. I had confidence in the fire department but just the thought of Mill Valley burning down was heartbreaking, Johnston said. “Above all, seeing Mr. Waldeck run from his house to the school had the most impact on me by far. It truly shows how much he cares not only about us and the school as well.”

Update: Friday, June 7 at 6:13 p.m.

Facilities Coordinator Deb Atwell has dealt with countless false fire alarms through her 17 years as a member of the district facilities department.

“I couldn’t even count. I’ve been in this department for years, and I wouldn’t even venture to say how many we’ve had,” Atwell said. There’s a lot of reasons you can have a false alarm.”

After Atwell received a text about the fire, she proceeded to drive to the school and realized after seeing smoke that this incident was not a false alarm.

“I got a text message from a co-worker [who alerted me of the fire],” Atwell said. “When I saw the smoke, [I realized the fire was not a false alarm].”

This is the first time in the district’s history that an actual fire has ever taken place.

“We’ve had issues with fire lines going off, but we’ve never had actual flaming fire like this,” Atwell said.

Atwell believes the response that occurred went according to plans the district has set in place.  

““I think [the fire procedures the district has established] pretty much went to plan. Every false alarm we get we have to handle like it’s the real deal until we know for sure.”

Story: Friday, June 7 at 12:09 a.m.

A fire broke out near a construction site on the north side of the school around 9:30 p.m. Thursday, June 6. Firefighters put the blaze out within an hour, no one was injured and no serious damage to the interior of the building occurred.

City of Shawnee Fire Marshall Corey Sands outlined the series of events after the fire was discovered.

“We got a call about 9:30 p.m of a fire outside the building. Fire crews did arrive and saw a fire from [the construction site near the school],” Sands said. “[Firefighters] made a quick knock down of the fire, no injuries. They went inside to look for damage, found a little bit in the roof line, and they got that taken care of pretty quickly.”

The fire started near a pile of debris from demolition taking place near the construction site. It is unclear if the debris had any effect in sparking the fire.

The cause of the fire is currently unknown, but the fire department will continue to investigate. They contained the fire to the outside of the building, but some smoke entered into the building’s interior.

According to an email sent by principal Tobie Waldeck, the fire department is currently assisting to remove smoke from the north side of the building using fans.

Custodian Hugh Dondobbels was the only staff member inside the building when the fire began. He was the first person to detect the fire.

“[A few minutes before the alarm went off,] I could smell the smoke,” Dondobbels said. “I grabbed a flashlight and went down the hall to look for it.”

Upon discovering the fire, Dondobbels left the building to contact the police department only to discover that the police and fire departments were already on the scene.

After first responders arrived around 9:30 p.m., a crowd formed around the fire. Among them was 2018 graduate Kendall Gaignat, who was intimidated by the initial blaze.

“When I showed up, it looked like the entire weight room was on fire,” Gaignat said. “[The fire] was bright orange, and it was really scary.”

The story will be updated soon with more details. 

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