Volunteers Fight Destructive School Blaze
The main building of the 40-year-old West Chester Senior High School, West Chester, Pa., was totally destroyed by fire as the old year waned, despite the strenuous efforts of volunteer firemen from six communities, including those of West Chester’s three companies. Their efforts, however, saved the Junior High School building located only 50 feet distant.
The fire, discovered at 6:20 p.m., destroyed every item of equipment in the 22 class rooms, study hall, library and administrative offices, at a loss which school authorities say will require at least $750,000 to replace.
The cause of the fire, which started in a first floor stockroom at the rear of the building, was not determined. The stockroom was formerly a boiler room but for several years no heat unit had been located in the destroyed building. The room was used for storage and baling of waste paper. A carpenter shop used by maintenance employes of the school adjoined the stockroom.
By the time the first unit of the Good Will Company of West Chester arrived and stretched its booster line, flames were raging in the stockroom and spreading upward. Within ten minutes the three local companies had 2 1/2-inch lines operating on the structure. Water pressure dropped as the pumpers opened up, but it was built up rapidly to the point where it was adequate to accommodate a total of 15 pumpers when the fire was at its height. Every fire hydrant for two blocks around the school was in use, and a Malvern pumper pumped uninterruptedly from excess water flowing into a storm sewer at Church and Washington streets.
Fire Chief Andress of West Chester acted quickly in calling for aid and within 15 minutes front the first alarm, help was enroute from Coatesville, Downington, Malvern and Paoli. Each of these fire companies sent two pumpers to the scene. Initially firemen were hampered by lack of long ladders to reach the roof of the building. A call to Bryn Mawr brought a combination aerial ladder and pumper to West Chester about 7:30 p.m. Using this apparatus. firemen operated from the roof of the Junior High building and prevented communication of fire to that unit.
Fire doors of a bridge connecting the Senior and Junior High Schools also aided in preventing the spread of the blaze to the newer Junior High—also 3stories—(built in 1917).
By 10:00 p.m. the main building was gutted and the roof had fallen in. Hose streams were directed on the ruins, however, until 3:00 a.m.
(FROM INFORMATION SUPPLIED BY CORRESPONDENT HARRY W. ANNEAR)