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Fire Damages Upper Perkiomen High School
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

First responders attending seminar in the building contain fire


            Two volunteer firefighters were injured at the scene of a fire that broke out in the Tech Education Classroom at the Upper Perkiomen High School in Red Hill 

From left, Green Lane Chief John Balmer, Red Hill Chief Mike

Eshbach, and Red Hill Fire Marshal John Lehr look over the

damaged Tech Room of the Upper Perkiomen High School

after Saturday's fire.

around 10 a.m. on Saturday morning.

            Red Hill firefighters were dispatched to the call and arrived quickly at the scene.

            Aiding in the quick extinguishment of the blaze was a firefighter's seminar being held at the school Saturday morning.

            Green Lane Fire Company was hosting an event, attended by about 60 area firefighters, titled "In Honor of the Charleston 9: A Study of Change Following Tragedy".

            There were some students in the building as well, but all evacuated the building safely.

            When the alarm sounded the firefighters exited the building and performed a routine "perimeter walk" to look for any problems.

            At the south side of the one-story section of the building Green Lane Fire Chief John Balmer saw flames through a "steamed-up" window and notified fire dispatchers of a confirmed fire at the location.  Dispatchers were quickly able to notify all responding companies and add additional companies to the call.

             The Green Lane firefighters attending the seminar with an engine, quickly moved the truck to the fire-side of the building and entered the building to begin fighting the fire.  Red Hill trucks rapidly responded to the scene as well.

            The fire burning in the room generated enough heat to melt ceiling tiles as it spread towards the roof.

            Red Hill Chief Mike Eshbach, in command of the fire scene, said that the volunteer firefighters worked quickly to extinguish the fire and ventilate the room.  A ventilation system had carried smoke and fumes to other portions of the building.

            He added, "Everybody worked together and that's the nice thing about the companies around here."

            Two firefighters attending the seminar suffered lacerations to their hands while helping out and were transported by Bally Ambulance to the Lehigh Valley Hospital where they were treated and released.

            The cause of the fire was investigated by Red Hill Fire Marshal John Lehr and State Police Fire Marshal John Stewart.  According to Lehr, the cause of the fire was an "electrical equipment" malfunction.

            While most of the fire and heat damage was confined to the Tech Room, smoke and soot were carried throughout the rest of the building complex through the ventilation system.  Lehr said "You could tell something didn't shut down … that's something that will have to be looked at."

            Lehr estimated the damage to be in excess of $500,000.

            The high school was closed on Monday and Tuesday to allow clean-up crews to work in the building.  Classes resumed, with a two-hour delay, on Wednesday.  Art week, scheduled for April 30 through May 4, was also cancelled.

            The high school building was opened in 1969 and the addition, where the fire occurred, as added in the 1990's.  The section is not equipped with sprinklers.

            Fire police closed 11th Street from Main Street to Montgomery Avenue at the borough line between Red Hill and Pennsburg, and Montgomery Avenue, from 8th Street to 11th Street in Pennsburg during the emergency.

            Assisting were volunteer firefighters and fire police from East Greenville; Green Lane; New Hanover; Pennsburg; Souderton; Upper Frederick in Montgomery County, Milford Township; Quakertown; Sellersville; Trumbauersville in Bucks County, and Hereford Township in Berks County.

            Also assisting at the scene were emergency medical units from Upper Perkiomen Valley and Bally ambulance associations and canteen units from North Penn Goodwill service.

            Firefighters were on the scene until 3 p.m. Saturday.





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