A small fire broke out inside a home economics classroom at Dickinson Middle School Monday afternoon, but was quickly put out with a rapid response from a teacher and the prompt arrival of the Dickinson Fire Department.
As the fire alarms went off, technology teacher Todd Selle saw the flames inside the classroom as he walked by. He quickly grabbed the nearest fire extinguisher and successfully put the fire out. Simultaneously while fighting the relatively small fire, he called his brother, Dickinson Deputy Fire Chief Mark Selle, directly at about the same time the Dickinson Fire Department received the dispatch call for service to the school at 1:29 p.m.
Six DFD personnel arrived on scene within a minute, but by then all of the students had been evacuated from the school and the fire was already mostly extinguished.
“He basically put the fire out mostly by himself,” Selle said. “... (There was) just some smoldering paper. We showed up and removed the stove and put remaining embers out, and that’s pretty much it.”
After firefighters removed the stove, and culprit of the fire, they ventilated the building. The only real damage to the stove came in the form of some melted plastic. The ventilation lasted for about 15 minutes before school and fire personnel permitted students to return to classes.
The fire crew was on scene for approximately 30 minutes total.
“The students obviously left the building right away as the arms went off. They did a great job getting them out. Todd didn’t have any students at that time, so he was very capable and able to go in and use the extinguisher that was in and put that fire out,” Selle said. “It was very close to setting off the sprinkler system in the building because of the size and location of it. It went very close and he saved a lot of damage by being able to know how to use a fire extinguisher and get that fire put out.”
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but according to the fire marshal, the classroom was not occupied at the time the fire broke.
“(The stove) somehow turned on or was left on. We haven’t been able to figure out how, since they haven’t cooked on that stovetop for quite some time. The classroom wasn’t even being used that day, so we’re just not sure how that stove got turned on,” he noted.
The small fire resulted in the loss of a stove and caused only minor soot damage to some areas on the walls and countertops, Selle said, adding that the classroom should be back to normal with some cleaning.
“Public school staff was working hard as we left and they’ll probably have it cleaned up before the end of the day. They were really working hard,” he said.
With prompt responses from school staff and students, Selle said that it was a job well done considering that most local schools conduct safety drills once a month.
“We got probably one of the best arrivals I think we ever had showing up at the fire scene. All of the kids were cheering for us, so they were really happy to see us. I’m not sure if they were happy to be out of school (or) happy to see the fire department, but it was a unique greeting, I guess,” he said, with a chuckle.