October 11, 2011—Students evacuated from the Columbia Area Career Center at 2:34 p.m., when a fire started from equipment inside the Agricultural Welding shop. Authorities and emergency vehicles responded to the call and extinguished the flames. No students or teachers were injured in the accident.
The fire stemmed from a tractor with a small gas leak that students were advised to stay away from by welding instructor Larry Henneke. Sources say welding occurred in the area because a student did not hear the issued warning. Sparks from the welder caused an immediate fire to erupt from the tractor.
Teachers and students who evacuated the CACC stood unsure of what was going on inside the building. Some thought a student had pulled the fire alarm on purpose.
“There was an unscheduled fire drill, but apparently it wasn’t a drill and there is smoke coming out of the Agriculture Welding shop area,” adult education secretary Janet Burleson said.
Administrators from both buildings were among those unclear of the events unfolding in the CAAC on the first day of Fire Prevention Week.
“I was told simply that something was going on over there so I went and talked to their administrators and asked if there was anything we could do,” RBHS principal Mark Maus said.
Some students had belongings left in the building after evacuation and were not allowed to retrieve them until the fire department gave clearance.
“There was a lot of smoke. All of our [CACC] kids will be able to leave the building and be able to leave the parking lot, “Assistant CACC Director Randy Gooch said. “Everything is good to go. What they can’t do right now is go back into the building. As far as what exactly happened I’m not sure.”
Firefighting and EMT instructor Dean Martin said all students and teachers were accounted for after the evacuation.
By Sami Pathan and Parker Sutherland