A Brocklehurst elementary school that went up in flames on Thursday evening had no sprinkler system — a factor that hindered fire-suppression efforts.
Kamloops Fire Rescue still does not know where the fire that gutted Parkcrest elementary started as investigators continued to examine the scene on Friday.
There were three people in the building at the time of the fire — two custodians and a teacher. They called 911 and were able to leave the building safely.
One employee smelled smoke coming from the front of the building near the office, but that does not appear to be where the fire started, School District 73 superintendent Alison Sidow told KTW.
“We’re awaiting the final investigation report,” she said.
Kamloops Fire Rescue received an alarm call at 5:08 p.m. on Thursday and firefighters were on scene within five minutes, said assistant fire chief Steve Robinson.
The fire was then upgraded to call out all available resources.
CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT THE VAROUS AGENCIES STEPPING TO HELP PARKCREST FAMILIES AND STAFF
“Due to the volume of fire and the smoke conditions, the fire was called into a defensive operation, which meant no interior attack,” Robinson said, noting the decision was made for the safety of firefighters as no one was believed to be in the building.
The fire consumed the building, with portions of the roof caved in and exterior walls bent inward.
Firefighters remained on scene throughout the night and into Friday morning.
The building was still smouldering on Friday.
Robinson said the building was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on scene Thursday, explaining efforts to extinguish the blaze were hampered by the fact the fire spread into the roof space and the school did not have a sprinkler system.
Sidow said most of the schools in the Kamloops-Thompson district are between 40 and 50 years old.
“You can imagine they were built in a time when all the amenities we enjoy in modern schools were not available,” Sidow said.
School district secretary-treasurer Kelvin Stretch said a few schools per year are upgraded with amenities like sprinkler systems, but with 33 elementary schools in the district, he added, it takes time.
Sidow noted SD73 does the best with the funding it has available.
“We do put safety first, but when you’re working with old facilities and limited capital dollars, you can only do so much,” she said.
Fire investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fire and, Robinson said, they will be working to that end “over the next few days.”
He said investigators will pinpoint the exact area and go from there to determine a cause.
Robinson could not say whether the fire is considered suspicious, but noting the fire department has no reason to believe it is at this point.
No work was being done on the school at the time of the fire and maintenance staff hadn’t worked in the building for the past two months, Stretch said. He said he is not aware of any maintenance issues the building has had over the years.
“Certainly, it’ll be part of the investigation to determine if there was any maintenance over the last number of years that could have triggered a problem,” Stretch said.