Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Preble High School - WBAY

Fire Causes Extensive Damage to Preble High School

Updated: Aug 09, 2014 08:19 AM
Green Bay -

At about 1:30 Friday Morning, Green Bay fire officials received a call about smoke at Preble High School. Firefighters controlled the scene without any injuries, but not before the fire caused considerable damage throughout the building.

From end to end, almost the distance of a city block, smoke damaged the building. One of the biggest challenges for firefighters besides putting out the flames was finding the fire in the first place.

Preble High School is the largest school in the Green Bay District and one of the larger buildings in the city, covering nearly an entire city block.

As crews began arriving at 1:45 A.M., all they saw was smoke so thick they couldn't immediately spot the source.

"For a little while, it impeded visibility on Danz Avenue, which is unusual. It was an indication to us that we have a problem," says Green Bay Metro Fire Assistant Chief Mike Nieft.

They immediately called in more of their own crews, plus at least seven other nearby departments.

But that thick smoke created visibility problems for firefighters crawling through such a large building, unable to see the hands in front of their faces.

"We worked our way through a couple of different areas and some hallways and weren't able to find the fire," says Nieft.

He was in command outside and used floor plans and maps of the school, kept in their trucks, to help firefighters navigate the building.

"We took a look at the layout of the building and looked at where the smoke was pouring out and kind of made a decision on where we thought we needed to get," says Nieft.

Those maps were definitely helpful, but even more so -- it turns out the firefighter leading the attack inside the school was a Preble graduate himself, who knew the building better than anyone else.

"Of course he took it personally, because of course he's a Preble graduate, so he really wanted to get in there and do a good job, and he did," says Nieft.

Nieft says the fire doors throughout the building did close, but as the fire burned, the smoke continued flowing, even through the ventilation system.

He says the bleachers and everything on the walls in the gym burned very hot, creating an intense situation for firefighters.

It took them about 45 minutes to locate the flames, but in a building this size, Nieft doesn't think that's unusual.

"You're moving so, and you're crawling. You're down low to stay away from the smoke. It seems different when you go back and reflect on a timeline than it does when you're there. You feel like it's been a few minutes and it's been 20 or 25," he says.
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