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    It is always with confusion that a situation like this is received. On one hand a student is ecstatic because its a "free day off", but on the other there is sadness, because a library is lost....

    Koksilah students in limbo after fire

    Jeff Bell Times Colonist

    Tuesday, May 11, 2004

    CREDIT: Deddeda Stemler, Times Colonist

    Koksilah elementary school students should find out today when they'll be able to return to school, after a suspicious fire at their Cowichan Valley school on the weekend.

    The school's 200 kindergarten to Grade 6 students remained out of class for a second straight day Monday because of damage from the Sunday morning blaze. Damage was confined to one of two separate buildings at the school, which is visible from the Trans-Canada Highway on the south side of Duncan.

    The school library is severely damaged, as are virtually all of its contents. On Monday, charred books could be seen still neatly lined up on shelves. Library tables were littered with insulation from the ceiling, and the windows were blown out from the heat.

    For anyone standing close by, a morning rain was mixed with bits of ash.

    David Sanders, Duncan's assistant fire commissioner, said the library is the likely "area of origin" for the fire, which started about 9:30 a.m. The concrete block barrier within the building stopped the fire in its tracks.

    "It's proof-positive that firewalls work," Sanders said.

    The larger of the school's two buildings is intact.

    In the damaged building, a Duncan Fire Department crew and other officials sifted through the library and the blackened remains of a hallway for much of the day Monday. Portions of the hall were strewn with ceiling beams, taken down as a preventive measure by firefighters.

    One concern Monday was that smoke could be trapped in crawlspaces and other sections of the building.

    A powerful fan was used to ensure that all areas of the structure were properly vented.

    A security company was brought in to keep the public safely away from the investigation site.

    He said no damage estimate has been tallied.

    "It's a fairly significant loss."

    Const. Jennifer Prunty of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP said police are assisting in the investigation at the request of the fire commissioner's office. She said police are particularly interested in speaking with anyone who was in the vicinity of the Polkey Road school around the time the fire broke out.

    Copyright 2004 Times Colonist (Victoria)


    PHOTO CREDIT:

    Firefighter Martin Ruszkowski, 24, of the Duncan Fire Department, looks through large hole in the roof of Koksilah elementary school. A high-powered fan was used to remove residual smoke from a crawlspace beneath the school's library on Monday.


    Good work by the crews who attended.
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