Electrical malfunction triggers fire in field house

Prompt firefighter response limits damage, disruption


Lucy Hamre

Senior Lucy Hamre, an eyewitness to the July 15 fire, said that the smoke and fire-engine lights were visible from far away from the campus even if the flames were not visible.

Lucy Marco, online co-editor in chief

A water fountain erupted into flames in the McCallum field house weight room on Thursday July 15, the result of an electrical malfunction. Luckily, a passing neighbor quickly saw the smoke and alerted the fire department.

Rising senior Lucy Hamre explained what she saw when she drove over to check out the scene after receiving a call from her dad, who described the smoke, fire trucks, and helicopter. 

“I couldn’t see the fire, but you could see the smoke from pretty far away,” she said. “The lights of the fire trucks made it look very large.”

Initially, Hamre worried if the fire would impact her upcoming senior year.

“I was afraid that the fire was affecting the school in a way that would delay the start of school, and I was not about to do that online again.”

At first, the firefighters had trouble locating the source of the smoke.

“There was confusion at first about whether it was the weight room or whether it was the gym, then I thought it was that weight room that is right next to the gym,” Principal Nicole Griffith said.

Thanks to the prompt response of the Austin fire department and the field house’s cinderblock construction, the damage was limited to a water fountain and some nearby medicine balls. Photo originally appeared on the Austin Fire Department Twitter page.

“Until I got to campus, I didn’t know it was in the weight room in the field house,” Griffith said. “They had already put out the fire by the time I got there, but we still couldn’t go in there because the smoke was still pretty bad.”

Since the weight room is made of cinderblocks, the fire was contained and the damage minimal.

“There was some damage to some medicine balls that were stored next to the fire, and  the water fountain was very warped and damaged,” Griffith said. “But because it is made out of cinderblocks, none of the weights caught on fire or were damaged, they just needed to be cleaned up because there was a little layer of soot over everything.”

After a major clean up and a new paint job, the weight room reopened quickly for the strength and conditioning camp, and costs were covered by insurance.

“The fire was caught very quickly, and the district was very helpful in making sure we had what we needed to continue with our programming,” Griffith said. “It could have been way worse!”