Students return to classrooms following a fire at CWHS

FRESNO, Calif.

Fire officials believe the fire was electrical in nature and was likely caused by a battery charger left in the classroom. They told Action News the official report will be released in the next day or so. In the meantime, students said they are happy to be back in the building.

Jessica Borges and Alexis Kalugin attend class in one of the 14 classrooms affected by the fire. After seeing dozens of damaged desks and destroyed camera equipment pulled from the room last Thursday, they were amazed at how quickly the building transformed over the weekend.

"It looks the same as before the fire," said Kalugin.

"I drove by over the weekend and saw like 12 vans out here and I'm surprised they got it done that quick," said Borges.

Principal Eimear O'Farrell said a team of about 30 people from Restoration Management took advantage of the Veteran's day holiday to clean up the classrooms.

"They used rather sophisticated equipment to check everything including the ducts, ceilings, the walls. Every book was cleaned, every chair, every table, so to be honest with you we were very happy with how the building looked this morning," she said.

She said most of the furniture in the surrounding classrooms was salvaged, but the photo lab still remains closed.

"The damage in there is extensive and so that room will need to be completely redone," she said.

But she said the damage could have been worse. After meeting with fire officials and insurance adjusters over the last few days, she's convinced a "fire door" on the photo lab prevented the flames from spreading.

"It's actually interesting to see that door," she said. "The inside is completely black, but there is no damage on the other side of the door."

Even though a slight odor remains, she said the biggest challenge clean up crews faced, was removing the particulate matter left behind by the fire.

"There is a difference between smoke particulates and smoke odor and the goal was to make sure all the particulates are eliminated from the building," she said. "That's quite an arduous task. They have to go into the attic, check all the filters, you can imagine."

On Tuesday morning, officials got the all clear. The rooms were safe for students to return to all classrooms, but the photo lab. School officials are still waiting for word on when students can return to the class. For the time being, photography students have been moved to another classroom on campus and because most of their equipment was destroyed in the fire, O'Farrell said the instructor has made changes to the curriculum that reflects more modern technology.

"We have been moving into digital photography so that is going to be the focus we work on right now," she said.

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