Fire damages Charter locker room

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

By LARRY HANNAN, ljhannan@naplesnews.com

A portable building used as a boys locker room at Marco Island Charter Middle School received about $50,000 damage in a fire Monday night.

No one was injured in the fire, which began a little after 11 p.m.

after components in the air conditioner overheated. The superheated components ignited wood that was close to the air conditioner and started the blaze, said Fire Marshal John Burback.

"Thank God no one was on campus when the fire occurred," said George Abounader, director of Marco Island Charter Middle School.

Classes at the school were not affected directly by the fire because the portable wasn't a classroom.

"Unfortunately, some of the students still had their books in the locker room," Abounader said. "They haven't been able to go in and get them yet."

Fire Division Chief Scott Schultz said preliminary estimates had the fire doing about $50,000 in damage to the portable. The department also estimates about $10,000 damage was done to the contents of the portable, Schultz said.

Abounader said he is waiting for word on whether the building can be salvaged.

"From the damage I've seen I don't think (the portable) can be repaired," he said. "But we're waiting to hear from the insurance people."

Other issues, such as who will pay for the repairs or replacement, and how long it will be until a repaired or new building is in place, have yet to be determined, Abounader said.

The charter school leases 27 portables from General Electric Capital. The insurance company is Western World Insurance.

"Right now we're waiting for the insurance adjuster to show up and tell us where we go from here," Abounader said.

There is no sprinkler system in any of the portables.

"Modular classrooms just don't have the infrastructure to support a sprinkler system," Abounader said.

The portable classrooms do have smoke detectors that were installed over the summer, but the locker room didn't have one because steam from the showers could set it off, Abounader said.

The school also regularly practices fire drills that involve getting out of the portable classrooms when the fire alarm goes off, Abounader said.

On Tuesday morning, nine members of the Marco Island Fire Department used the fire- damaged portable for 30 minutes as a training and test site for a newly purchased piece of department equipment, a thermal imaging camera.

The hand held unit can detect heat in low visibility conditions, Schultz said.

Staff Writer ELIZABETH WENDT contributed to this story.