Reporting Kate Raddatz
ROBERTS, Wis. (WCCO) — Investigators are trying to find out what started a fire at an elementary school early Tuesday morning in western Wisconsin.
Crews responded to a report of a fire at the St. Croix Central Elementary School at about 4 a.m. Authorities said you can still smell the smoke in the air from the fire even after it’s been a couple of hours since the blaze was contained.
There are still crews at the school picking up debris and cleaning up. There are just a couple of weeks of school left at St. Croix Central Elementary, and now they will have to finish up with parts of their schools severely damaged.
When crews got to the scene, flames were shooting up in the air out if the roof of the school. Several fire departments battled the blaze for two hours as parents and students arrived to see the damage.
“It’s pretty serious from what my crews are telling me,” said Fire Chief Jeff Vogt.
Parts of the school, mainly towards the front of the building where the administrative offices and library are located, were heavily damaged in the fire. School officials called off classes for the day.
“This has never happened before. This is kind of sad to see this,” said Denise Pariseau, who has grand kids at the school.
The school’s principal, who’s been there for 13 years, will now deal with the fire investigation in his last five weeks at the school before his retirement.
“With the Boston Marathon bombings and so forth, it’s sad to think that it’s not a safe world anymore. You look at this damage and see what someone has done,” said Principal Steve Sanders.
Fire and police officials are investigating what exactly caused the fire. Dan Burguss, the Roberts chief of police, said he’s looking into the possibility of anything suspicious at this point as the cause of the fire.
“We’re going to take a heavy look at it and bring in some resources from the state, some expertise on fires. We’ll check that out and make sure we don’t have anything suspicious,” Burguss said.
It took about 90 firefighters with 15 units to put out the fire. School officials haven’t said what it’s going to do about classes for the remainder of the week.
A police officer told WCCO that they suspect someone may have broken into the building and started the fire. The incident is still under investigation.