Blair evacuated due to microwave fire

Oct. 10, 2013, 8:51 p.m. | By Jack Estrin, Aanchal Johri | 10 years, 6 months ago

Smoke from microwave in staff office triggers fire alarm

Today, around 8:40 a.m., students were evacuated from Montgomery Blair High School after a staff member accidentally left food heating in the microwave unattended, causing a small fire. The only damages made were to the microwave, located in the Special Education Office in Room 130.

Firefighters set up fans in the 130s hallway to remove the smoke from the building.  Photo courtesy of Connor Smith.

The fire was finally brought to attention when a staff member passing through room 130 noticed the odor. "Someone notified building services of the smoke," Principal Renay Johnson said.

Johnson stated that the school was notified that a staff member was responsible for the incident because students approached her, saying that they were being accused of causing the incident. "Some 11th graders were accused of starting a fire in the jungle," Johnson said. By jungle, Johnson means the jungle-themed decorations created by the class of 2015 for spirit week, located near the gym hallway.

According to Johnson, the students and staff took a total of eight minutes to evacuate the building. The Silver Spring Fire Station responded to the situation immediately and Blazers stood outside for 13 minutes before being cleared by fire marshals and were let back into the building. The fire marshals are the only ones able to clear a re-entry into the building after a fire.

Social studies teacher David Swaney, Vice Principal William Currence and Principal Renay Johnson after students were readmitted into the building.  Photo courtesy of Connor Smith.

Future steps will be taken to avoid similar situations. "We're going to have to review policies of what should be allowed in an office," Johnson said. "We may need to secure appliances to the staff lounge."

Despite the situation, Johnson plans to install three microwaves in the SAC by Nov. 15, hoping that the microwaves will encourage healthier eating habits for Blazers. Johnson oversaw a similar microwave system in her time as principal of Takoma Park Middle School, where she worked prior to Blair. Although some may worry that students would not be able to handle the privilege of microwaves, Johnson has a solution. "It's a privilege, not a right. If you abuse it then we lose it."

The Silver Spring Fire Station responded to the alarm immediately.  Photo courtesy of Connor Smith.

Security Assistant Maureen Walsh believes the incident was an important exercise for a real emergency. "It's a good thing it happened because no one got hurt and we could review our plan," she said. "We practice as we play."

The exit time for the evacuation was slightly slower than usual, and Walsh attributed this to the weather. "It was a little slow because people didn't want to get wet," Walsh said. Many students took cover under umbrellas or whatever else they could find in order to stay dry in the inclement weather.

The fire department, located right next to Blair, responded to situation immediately, according to Johnson. "The fire department is just next door and came right away," Johnson said. A link to the principal's letter home to parents regarding the fire can be found here.

Tags: Renay Johnson Maureen Walsh Silver Spring Fire Station

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Aanchal Johri. Aanchal Johri ('14) served as co-Editor-in-Chief of Silver Chips Online with Jack Estrin from 2013-2014. In January 2014, Johri represented Silver Chips Online at the White House as the only high school journalist to <a href="">cover</a> the White House State of Science, Technology, Engineering and … More »

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