Officials investigating cause of fire at Cedar Ridge High School

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

Administrators canceled classes there after localfirefighters put out a blaze inside the high school building early Fridaymorning.

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

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

As the sun rose Friday, the smell of smoke still waftedthrough the windows and doors left open to aerate the Cedar Ridge High Schoolbuilding.

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

"I got the call around 3:34 a.m., and all that I was toldwas my high school was filled with smoke and the fire departments were here andthe 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 andemergency vehicles surrounding the high school.

She initially thought the incident started because of someminor glitch, but then found out a fire destroyed two classrooms and filled therest 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. "Theentire system is going to have to be reviewed and plus the electrical system."

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

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

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

Dr. Webb lined up a cleaning service Friday morning to comeinto 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 theinspectors will be called," she said. "The Department of Education has beencalled, and our facilities people have been called. It will be inspected, andit will be safe before I allow our students to reenter the building or ourfaculty either."

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

The high school students, however, will likely take a fieldtrip Monday and Tuesday to the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rockbecause 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 appreciationto all the first responders who came to the scene, especially Newark Fire ChiefJames Langston.

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

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