Chemainus Fire Department members at the scene of the first Chemainus Secondary School fire Feb. 20. (Photo by Don Bodger)

District ramps up security, counselling in the wake of two Chemainus Secondary fires

RCMP Investigations Section seeking to find out who’s responsible

Classes will be in session Monday, as the investigation continues into two suspicious fires in eight days in boys washrooms – one on each floor – at Chemainus Secondary School.

Ensuring the safety of students is the primary concern from the repeat incidents. Cowichan Valley School District 79 will have a temporary full-time security guard and daytime custodian at the school, starting Monday, while staff keeps working with the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP to determine who is responsible for the fires.

In addition, students will be required to abide by a strict procedure for signing in and out of classrooms.

The second fire Friday in the lower part of the school, following one on the upper floor the previous Thursday, has resulted in an enforcement of protocol to prevent any other occurrences. Classes were dismissed both times in the afternoons following the fires and cancelled the next day.

The Friday fire did not result in the loss of a full day, heading into the weekend. Firefighters from both the Chemainus and Crofton Fire Departments attended Friday.

All students and staff again evacuated the building safely, with no injuries.

Cleaning has been undertaken by district staff and remediation experts for Monday’s return to school, but the lower floor near the fire will be inaccessible to students. That will not adversely affect classroom use.

Administration from Chemainus Secondary and the district made themselves available for students to pick up any personal items they required from the school Saturday.

“Again, our students and staff were amazing in how they handled themselves and we are so proud of their continued resilience as we deal with yet another fire,” noted principal Lori Hryniuk in a late Friday night update.

She admitted it’s very disappointing these two incidents have occurred, but is confident in the RCMP to identify who’s causing the fires.

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP General Investigations Section is investigating the two fires.

“We are very grateful to our staff, students, local fire departments and the RCMP for how they’ve dealt with this fire and investigation,” said Robyn Gray, superintendent of the Cowichan Valley School District.

Counselling resources have been expanded at the school for students or staff members, as required.

“It is our hope that these temporary additional precautions, coupled with the ongoing RCMP investigation, will ensure the safety of everyone in our school,” noted Mike Russell, director of communications for School District 79.

Anyone with information about these occurrences is asked to reach out to the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP detachment at 250-748-5522. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at cowichancrimestoppers.com to leave a secure tip online, or call 1-800-222-8477.

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Firefighters from the Chemainus Fire Department entering Chemainus Secondary School during the first fire there on Feb. 20. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Lineup of fire trucks at the back of Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crofton Fire Department members arriving at Chemainus Secondary School during the first fire on Feb. 20. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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