Front hallway bathrooms catch fire, close indefinitely

Henry Frieman

If you have a class in the front hallway, it might be a good idea to use the bathroom in the cafeteria beforehand.

Two sheets of printer paper with the word “CLOSED” written in permanent marker have hung on the doors to the boys’ and girls’ bathrooms in the front hallway since Friday, Feb. 3, when a tripped circuit breaker began smoking.

It all began earlier this month when principal James Gleason noticed that there was no heating or ventilation in the boys’ bathroom. He enlisted head custodian Ray Petersen to investigate the matter. Petersen discovered that the circuit breaker that controls the bathroom ventilation system was tripped, so he reset it.

Photography and graphic arts teacher Amanda FitzPatrick teaches in room 101, directly across the hallway from the bathrooms. Two freshmen exited the bathroom and alerted her of the smoke in the boys’ bathroom.

“I went into teacher mode,” FitzPatrick said. “It’s a good thing the two freshmen said something.”

Eyewitnesses saw Gleason sprinting down the hallway toward the bathrooms at about the same time as the freshmen reported smoke.

“Mr. Gleason immediately got on it and made the calls he needed to call and shut it down,” FitzPatrick said.

The cause of the smoke was the burnt-out circuit breaker, which started to smolder a few minutes after Petersen reset it.

“Within a couple of minutes, [the circuit breaker] started to smoke,” Gleason said. “It didn’t set off any fire alarms, but we turned it off right away.”

Gleason and Petersen called the MCVSD repairmen, who discovered that a motor that spins the cooling fan had burned out, as well as a problem with the regulator that controls the power levels across the fan.

“Without that, there’s no ventilation in there,” Gleason said.

There was no threat to students at any time. Gleason said he kept his eye on the bathroom and closed it immediately after the breaker started smoking.

There is no timeframe for when the bathrooms will be repaired and reopened. Gleason said that though the parts were ordered, they are on backorder and there is no estimate for when they will arrive. Students will have to use the bathrooms located in the cafeteria for the time being.

“Could it have been (dangerous)? Maybe, yeah,” Gleason noted. “But it wasn’t, and I think we’re all good.”