Education

Update: Hancock Middle School cancels Tuesday classes after fire

A fire in the home economics department of Hancock Middle School set off sprinklers that flooded classrooms Monday morning.

School was canceled Monday and the Hancock County School District has canceled classes for Tuesday as well. The cancellation of classes only applies to the middle school.

Kiln Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jamie Necaise said he received a text at 6:36 a.m. alerting him of the fire.

But Assistant Superintendent Donnie Gholston said that surveillance video showed the fire started at 2:48 a.m., because water can be seen coming under the doorway of the classroom and into the hallway.

The sprinkler system, which is monitored electronically, went off but did not send out an alert like it was supposed to. Instead, Gholston said, custodial crews discovered the mess when they reported to the school at 6:30 a.m.

When the Kiln department responded, they found 2 to 3 inches of water covering the floors of the school, Necaise said.

Hancock County school officials sent students home because of the flooding. Cleanup was expected to take the rest of the day and possibly into the evening. Gholston said cleanup will continue Tuesday and a decision will be made on whether classes will be held Wednesday by about 1 p.m. Tuesday.

Gholston said ServPro and the school’s custodial staff are working to clean up the water and sanitize the school as part of the cleanup process.

“Our staff will be in at 10 a.m. to prepare for the next day, if we can do that,” he said.

Hancock County emergency management director Brian Adam, who is the fire marshal for the county, is leading the investigation into how the fire started. Gholston said the fire began at a small appliance in the home economics room, but whether it was a faulty appliance or faulty wiring is what will be determined through Adam’s investigation, he said.

Gholston said they also will be looking into why the alarm system did not go off when the fire started in the early morning hours.

It was a busy morning for the Kiln department. Necaise said there was a second call on the campus for smoke in the Culinary Arts section of the school.

The smoke came from an air conditioning unit that had a motor burn up. The department was able to vent the smoke out. No other damage was found in the Culinary Arts section.

Kate Magandy: 228-896-2344, @kmagandy

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