Fire Damages Owatonna High School

Created: 06/04/2014 10:52 PM
By: John Doetkott

A fire broke out Wednesday afternoon inside Owatonna Senior High School. 

No one was hurt, but it was the fire's timing that had many students thinking it wasn't real.

Officials with the Owatonna Fire Department said the fire started just before 12:30 p.m. in the school's auditorium.

When fire fighters arrived, they found smoke and burnt curtains, but the city's fire chief said the sprinkler system did its job in containing the fire to the stage area.

"Sprinkler systems are huge,” Chief Mike Johnson said. “In this case, the sprinkler system saved the school."

Staff and students were evacuated and sent home, and the early release meant an unceremonious but certainly memorable sendoff for seniors, who saw their final day of high school cut short.

The fact that the fire happened on the seniors' last day meant when the alarm sounded, it didn't spark the usual concern.

"The alarms started going off and everyone thought it was a senior prank or something,” freshman Jacob Menden said. “I don’t think anyone believed it was real.”

"All of a sudden the fire alarms go off and we did not think it was real so we were all just asking if we could stay in," senior Anna Redman said.

Students said there were many rumors about what caused the fire, but the state fire marshal is still investigating, and no details have been released about how the fire really started.

"Last time we had a fire it was started by a popcorn that burned, so who knows what started this one,” Redman said.

Because some students didn't think the fire was real at first, many personal items were left inside the school and students had to wait several hours before they were allowed back in to get them.

Although there was some smoke, fire, and water damage from the sprinklers, officials expect to start school on time on Thursday.