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BUCKSPORT, Maine — Bucksport High School was evacuated and students allowed to go home early on Thursday when a fire erupted in a sawdust collection system in the school’s wood shop.
There were no injuries, and damage from the fire largely was limited to the ventilation system. But smoke from the blaze backed up into parts of the school, prompting RSU 25 Superintendent Jim Boothby to send students home at about 11:30 a.m. to allow workers to air out the building.
The fire began around 9 a.m. in a vacuum system that draws sawdust out of the wood shop and deposits it into a large barrel outside the building. All students and faculty evacuated the building and eventually were relocated to another school while fire crews from Bucksport, Orland and Orrington worked to extinguish the fire.
Bucksport Fire Chief Craig Bowden said Thursday afternoon that a final determination had not been made but the fire appeared to have started in the bin where the unit’s mechanical and electrical components are located. The entire unit was heavily damaged in the blaze.
Boothby said the evacuation went smoothly. He added that while it was an unfortunate event, the fire happened on the last day of classes before the school’s winter break, minimizing disruption to students and giving workers additional time to air out the school and clean the wood shop.
Staff and administrators plan to have a debriefing to discuss whether and how the school system’s evacuation and emergency response procedures could be improved, Boothby said.
“In the end, everybody was OK and the evacuation went well,” Boothby said.
Boothby said the dust collection unit will have to be replaced and that RSU 25 has contacted the school system’s insurance company.