This Saturday morning, Tim St. Amand, chief of the Caledonia fire department battalion and his crew set to work in the late morning hours when they received information about a fire alarm going off in the basement of the St. Louis parish school. The fire officials reported that the fire may have caused a total damage of about $20,000, although the accurate amount is yet to be determined. The good part is that the building had stopped working as an elementary school long back. In 2005, due to constant low enrollment rates, it ceased functioning as the parochial elementary school. Although the building was still being used as a parish office, fellowships, and religious education, there were not many people in the building at the time of the fire. It is located at 13207 Highway 5G, not far away from the fire department’s office.
In an interview with The Journal, Chief St. Amand said that the fire department officials were dispatched at 11.49 AM on Saturday. On reaching the site, the crew went inside and proceeded to thoroughly search the building since there was no smoke coming out of the building, and hence it was not clear as to why the alarm might have gone off. Once they reached the basement, they did spot some smoke, and after checking door to door, they were able to locate the source of the fire. After that, they called for a hose down in the basement and extinguished it. St. Amand also added that the use of thermal imaging cameras heavily aided in the suppression of the fire, given the amount of thick black smoke in the basement was high.
They found the source of the fire to be a dehumidifier. Although there was no damage to any life, the estimated financial damage may go up to $20,000 for heavy smoke. There was some fire damage to a wall adjacent to the dehumidifier and some amount of water damage as well. Initially, the crew thought they would need additional support to suppress the fire, and thus Fire departments from South Shore, Oak creek, Raymond, and Franklin were also notified. Since the fire wasn’t as bad as they had expected, the other fire departments were sent back while they were still en route.
“We’ve had this trouble before, and it’s kind of throughout the whole world, where these dehumidifiers are burning up,” he pointed out. “They’re plastic, and it’s a nasty thick black smoke when they do burn, and it’s a lot of smoke damage.” According to St. Amand, the Caledonia state has experienced fires multiple times, and other places have done so. He also stressed the importance of a well-functioning fire alarm on all the building levels. He pointed out that without the fire alarm, this fire could have gone unnoticed for a long time and may have turned out to be catastrophic.