The 385 students at Montvale Elementary School got the day off Wednesday. There was no snow -- just smoke.
Dr. Brian Bell, facilities supervisor with the Blount County School System, said power lines near the school at 3128 Montvale Road, Maryville, fell at about 6:40 a.m. and arced and knocked out power to the school. The malfunction caused a drop in power going into the building, causing the motors to the water heaters to burn and smoke, he said.
No damage was reported to the structure of the school. “(The motors) didn’t cause a fire,” said Bell. “They just kind of burned up.”
Blount County Fire Chief Doug McClanahan said the downed power lines also contributed to the slow response from fire personnel. “A power line came down about 6:40 a.m. and then about an hour later we got a call to the school,” he said. The alarm system was malfunctioning, and there was a delay on our response because we didn’t know it had happened.”
Bell said students began arrived about 7 a.m. and by 7:20 school officials decided to cancel classes for the day. “When students started arriving, the school had no heat, no power and was full smoke,” he said.
McClanahan said they got the initial call about the situation at 7:35 a.m. and arrived at the school three minutes later because fire personnel were nearby responding to the downed power line. Ten firefighters with four trucks responded to the situation, he said.
Bell said firefighters made several sweeps of the building and at 8:35 a.m. power was restored at the school. Someone was monitoring the hallways and classrooms checking for fires while school officials waited for the alarm company to fix the system.
Bell said that when they decided to close school for the day, children riding to school with their parents were sent home. Once the fire department cleared the gymnasium of any danger, children who rode to school on buses were taken to the gymnasium. “You can’t just send kids on buses back home. You don’t know if parents are there or if they can get in house,” he said.
Bell said the fire personnel and teachers did a good job responding to the emergency situation. “Everyone was very professional and did a good job,” he said.