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Bend Senior HS to resume classes Tuesday after transformer, ceiling fires

Bend Senior HS transformer box fire Bill Breneman 223-1
Bill Breneman
Bend fire crews on scene late Sunday afternoon of transformer fire outside Bend Senior High School
Bend Senior HS transformer box fire Bill Breneman 223-2
Bill Breneman
Firefighters could not immediately put water on the burning transformer box, which could have led to electrocution.
Bend Senior HS transformer box fire Bill Breneman 223-4
Bill Bremenan
People in the area heard one or two loud 'booms' when electrical transformer outside Bend Senior HS burst into flames late Sunday afternoon.
Bend Senior HS transformer box fire Bill Breneman 223-3
Bill Brememan
Firefighters on scene of fire that broke out in transformer box beside Bend Senior HS amid area windstorm Sunday

(Update: Classes set to resume)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend Senior High School officials announced late Monday that classes will resume Tuesday after a transformer box fire nearby cut power on Sunday and a small fire in a classroom ceiling was discovered Monday morning.

School officials sent an email update to parents Monday evening, saying school would be in session Tuesday, outlining a schedule for ACT testing and thanking all involved in the “team effort” to get the school ready for classes to resume.

The school staff on scene Monday morning were evacuated shortly after 8 a.m. when alarms sounded due to smoke in a classroom in the southwest corner of the building.

The fire was discovered by school maintenance crews inspecting the building, Bend Deputy Fire Marshal Susie Maniscalco said.

"While they were here, they discovered smoke and soot coming from above that ceiling tile, so when they removed it there was fire actively burning from an electrical junction box," Maniscalco said.

"So they attempted to extinguish it with a portable fire extinguisher, was unsuccessful," she said. "We were able to extinguish it, pulling a line."

The heavy smoke in one area prompted fire crews to bring in large fans to air out that classroom.

The fire left a slight haze of smoke elsewhere in the school's "S" wing. Crews remained on scene for some time, checking areas around the school to make sure there were no other issues.

At midday Monday, school officials sent an update, saying Pacific Power's team worked through the night to replace the transformer and restore power.

"Our teams are currently performing assessment of equipment, from boilers to heating systems," the email stated. "We anticipate this will take several more hours."

The power outage also forced moving Monday evening’s Central Oregon Symphony concert to Summit High School’s auditorium. The symphony noted with very limited seating at the smaller venue, member seating will take place at 6:45 p.m. and general admission a half-hour later.

Two 'booms,' then flames

The transformer box exploded in flames outside of the school late Sunday afternoon as a windstorm with gusts to 50 mph raked the area. The resulting power outage has prompted cancellation of classes Monday.

Bill Breneman, who lives in apartments across the street and shared photos with NewsChannel 21, said he heard a loud "boom" and the lights flickered shortly before 4 p.m.

"Another 'boom!' took place a little bit later," Breneman said, at which point he headed outside and saw at least three fire trucks and a battalion chief's vehicle already on the scene.

Around 8:30 p.m., Bend-La Pine Schools sent a text message indicating classes at the high school on Northeast Sixth Street are canceled for Monday.

In an email to parents, Principal Chris Reese said the school is expected to be without power Monday due to the transformer fire, so all classes and before- and after-school activities for Monday are canceled.

"Pacific Power crews have been on scene throughout the evening, working to repair their damaged equipment," Reese added.

"Classes and activities will resume once repairs are complete, which may be as soon as Tuesday," the principal wrote.

Pacific Power spokesman Tom Gauntt confirmed Monday that the transformer explosion and fire were weather-related.

A tree had pulled down one power line onto another, near the transformer, Sunday afternoon, Gauntt said.

"There was a flash and a boom as the lines essentially welded together," he said. "Working on site, we were able to get everything restored and repaired by 2 a.m. By that time, school officials had already made their decision" to cancel Monday's classes.

Overall, he said, about 5,000 Pacific Power customers lost service in weather-related outages on Sunday, including about 30 smaller blackouts.

Maniscalco said a passer-by and homeowner had called in the fire, also having heard a big boom and seeing the flames and smoke from the burning transformer in a grassy area about 20-30 feet from the school.

Maniscalco said crews initially reached the school's electrical switch room, where there was "an electrical smell of smoke," prompting them to back out until Pacific Power could cut power to the building.

She noted that no fire occurred in the school. School district spokeswoman Julianne Repman said no damage was found in the switch room, and classes were canceled only due to lack of power until the transformer box was repaired.

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Barney Lerten

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Jessie Foster

Jessie Foster is an anchor, producer and reporter for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jessie here.


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