Students evacuated when fire strikes Congregation Beth El

Firefighters responded to Congregation Beth El Thursday afternoon, Feb. 14, when fire broke out in a heating and ventilation unit on the roof. ( Photo)

Firefighters credited staff with safely evacuating students from Congregation Beth El when fire broke out on the roof Thursday, Feb. 14.

A fire in the social room at the temple was reported at 1:48 p.m. According to the Fire Department, a person who called 911 and a police officer on patrol in the area both reported seeing heavy black smoke from the building.

The first firefighters to arrive found a heating and ventilation unit, fed by natural gas, on fire on the roof of the building. The fire on the roof created what firefighters called a “moderate” smoke condition inside the building.

All students were evacuated from the school in accordance with the schools emergency plan prior to the Fire Department’s arrival, and were kept in a safe location along with teachers. Twenty people were evacuated for about one hour, without injury.

Due to the time of day, students were dismissed directly to their parents’ care in front of the building without incident.

“The school did an excellent job in exercising their fire evacuation plan, which allowed them to account for each child outside of the school and kept the kids safely away from the school so firefighters could do their work,” Asst. Fire Chief Scott Bisson said.

Fire personnel shut off the gas to the building and controlled the fire, which was contained to the rooftop unit, Bisson said. Additional firefighters checked the inside of the building for fire extension and any possible victims remaining inside the building.

Fire personnel also ensured that all religious artifacts and precious documents were protected during the fire.

The building was not significantly damaged and was able to be occupied immediately after the fire, Bisson said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Fairfield Fire Marshall’s office, but appears to be accidental in nature related to weather conditions. The flames were coming from a broken gas pipe connected to the HVAC unit on the roof. Southern Connecticut Gas was called to the scene to assist with securing the equipment.

Fairfield Woods Road was closed for about 20 minutes during the fire, although parents were allowed to the front of the building to pick up children.

Four engines, two ladders, the Shift Commander and Safety Officer responded to this incident. The last fire unit cleared the scene at 3:02 PM

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