Santa Paula Times

SPFD: Bird’s nest leads to small fire at Thelma Bedell Elementary School

March 02, 2011
Santa Paula News

The Santa Paula Fire Department responded to a reported school structure fire Sunday evening, an incident that, according to a SPFD spokesman, was much less serious than initially feared and was caused by a bird’s nest.

Capt. Steve Lazenby said Engines 81, 82 and B81 were dispatched to a reported structure fire at Thelma Bedell Elementary School, 1305 Laurel Rd. at 6:04 p.m. Also dispatched was Ventura county Engine 26.

“Engine 82 with Captain Dustin Lazenby and crew arrived on scene first and went onto the campus and to the row of portable classrooms where the alarm had been activated,” where Lazenby said the custodian had seen smoke. Engine 81, led by Capt. Steve Lazenby, staged at the hydrant at the front gate.

Capt. Dustin Lazenby determined there was moderate smoke in the classroom, but could not locate the source of the smoke. Assistant Chief Kevin Fildes was incident commander, and firefighters continued to attempt to locate the source of the smoke.

Lazenby said a “small heat/inspection hole was cut in the roof above the class room and it was clear,” but upon further investigation it was found the “smoke and ash was coming from the ceiling heater vents. The vents were removed, as well as several ceiling tiles, to get a better look at the air system.”

It was found “There is a heating/AC unit on the west exterior wall of the classroom,” and Lazenby said when “the covers were removed from the unit it was found that there was nesting material and leaves inside the heating unit and in the ducts above the classroom ceiling that were burned and were still smoldering.” Firefighters secured power to the heater/AC and the ducts were disassembled in the classroom so that all of the smoldering material could be removed or extinguished.

“After the hot ash material was removed or wet down by a water extinguisher, all fire units were put back in service and returned,” with the building “left in the care of the school principal and the custodial staff.” Lazenby said they were advised to have the system checked out by a qualified heating and air conditioning technician before it was put back in service.

During the incident VCFD Engine 26 was dispatched to cover the city while the SPFD dealt with the fire. “Luckily,” said Lazenby, “the incident looked and sounded way more impressive than it turned out to be.”