Officials investigating cause of fire at Cedar Ridge High School - KAIT-Jonesboro, AR-News, weather, sports

Officials investigating cause of fire at Cedar Ridge High School

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NEWARK, AR (KAIT) – A lengthy cleanup process is set to begin shortly at Cedar Ridge High School in Newark.

Administrators canceled classes there after local firefighters put out a blaze inside the high school building early Friday morning.

The cause of the fire is still undetermined at this time. Investigators are working to figure out how it started, while administrators are deciding how to repair the damage it left behind.

"I've never seen fire damage up close like this before to classrooms," said Dr. Ann Webb, the Cedar Ridge school superintendent, "and it's pretty devastating to me."

As the sun rose Friday, the smell of smoke still wafted through the windows and doors left open to aerate the Cedar Ridge High School building.

Hours earlier, fire crews entered the building to extinguish flames contained in two classrooms.

"I got the call around 3:34 a.m., and all that I was told was my high school was filled with smoke and the fire departments were here and the police were already here and did they need to call someone else?" Dr. Webb recalled. "I said no, I am on my way."

When she got to campus, she saw several fire trucks and emergency vehicles surrounding the high school.

She initially thought the incident started because of some minor glitch, but then found out a fire destroyed two classrooms and filled the rest of the building with soot and smoke.

"Everything is going to have to be wiped off and cleaned up – every book in the library, every shelf, every chair," Dr. Webb said. "The entire system is going to have to be reviewed and plus the electrical system."

The fire was contained to the classrooms designated for business and the Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG) program, which housed a number of computers and other technology.

The school's resource officer first discovered the fire shortly after 3 a.m. Friday. He stopped by the school during his overnight patrols to write a report and smelled smoke.

"He called the police department and asked for the fire department to be dispatched," Dr. Webb said, "and so I told him this morning, I said you are my hero."

Dr. Webb lined up a cleaning service Friday morning to come into the school and begin cleaning all 76,000 square feet of the building, which may affect classes next week.

"I want to assure the parents that there will be all the inspectors will be called," she said. "The Department of Education has been called, and our facilities people have been called. It will be inspected, and it will be safe before I allow our students to reenter the building or our faculty either."

Classes will resume Monday as normal for most Cedar Ridge students, including the elementary school students who also got the day off Friday.

The high school students, however, will likely take a field trip Monday and Tuesday to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock because they will be unable to reenter their building.

"We're going to have education on Monday and Tuesday," Dr. Webb added, "even though we won't be able to go back into our building, probably."

The superintendent also wanted to express her appreciation to all the first responders who came to the scene, especially Newark Fire Chief James Langston.

The state fire marshal's office will assist him with the investigation to determine the cause of Friday's fire.

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