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School fire causes more than $150,000 in damages

By Promise Yee
OCEANSIDE — A fire at Garrison Elementary School engulfed the music room and caused an estimated $150,000 in structural damage and $100,000 damages to contents on Sept. 17.
The cause of the fire was determined to be an electrical short in the upper ceiling. Smoke alarms installed below the false ceiling were not triggered until flames worked their way down.
Once fire alarms were triggered, a fire crew arrived, accessed the scene and called for a full first alarm backup from Oceanside and Carlsbad firefighters.
The first firefighters on the scene quickly smothered the flames with water from the fire engine reserve tank. Then additional fire units arrived and finished extinguishing the flames.
“When the first engine arrived firefighter saw a large plume of smoke and requested a full structure response,” said Bob Dunham, battalion chief and site commander. “The first arriving company did a wonderful job. They rapidly pulled the hose line and kept the fire from breaching into the next classroom. Ten minutes in it was knocked down.”
The quick work of the initial crew on the scene allowed firefighters to initiate salvage operations and remove a lot of the room contents including an estimated $30,000 in instruments.
The recovered music cases were badly blistered from the flames, but the instruments inside them were intact.
“We’re really happy we saved so many of the instruments,” Dunham said.
The fire damaged classroom computers and furniture and caused heavy damage to the room.
“The supporting beams were burned through,” Dunham said. “It got close to gutting the place.”
The music room is located in a detached building at the rear of the school. No other buildings caught fire and only minimal smoke damage affected adjacent rooms.
“There was minimal water damage,” said Ron Owens, fire investigator. “The crew was very diligent. They caught it at a good time. A delay in smoke detection and the whole unit could have gone up.”
School was in session on Monday following the fire. No music lessons were held Sept. 19 to Sept. 23.
School staff is in the process of accessing the damages and losses and determining when music lessons will restart.
Music instruction may be held in the cafeteria multipurpose room, which is already used for preschool instruction, the student breakfast program and lunch hour.
“Even if we ordered instruments today it would take weeks to get them in hands of kids,” Margie Oliver, school principal, said. “How do you share instruments when you have to take them home to practice? We are scrambling to figure out alternatives. We had a terrible shortage of instruments to begin with.”
Garrison Elementary School is a designated visual and performing arts school. Weekly music instruction is given to all preschool through fifth grade students. It is the only elementary school in the Oceanside Unified School District that offers music to students in all grade levels.
The school had recently bought $20,000 worth of instruments for its music program. A school fundraiser is planned for Oct. 21 to help replace some of the instruments lost.