Firefighters enter at the back of Chemainus Secondary School during a Thursday morning fire. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Firefighters enter at the back of Chemainus Secondary School during a Thursday morning fire. (Photo by Don Bodger)

UPDATE – Chemainus Secondary School fire Thursday morning being investigated as suspicious

Classes cancelled Friday due to ongoing investigation and damage

Thursday morning’s fire at Chemainus Secondary School is being investigated as suspicious by North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP and fire inspectors.

Fire was spotted on the second floor of the school around 9 a.m. All students safely evacuated the building and there were no reports of any injuries.

Firefighters from Chemainus, Crofton and Ladysmith departments remained on the scene several hours, even after containing and putting out the fire. Ambulance personnel as well as Cowichan Valley School District 79 staff and Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, also attended.

Students were sent home for the day and classes were also cancelled Friday while the investigation continued and damage assessed.

Due to the large amount of smoke still present, it wasn’t until later in the day Thursday that RCMP and fire inspectors could check out the location of the fire. It was then determined to be suspicious in nature.

The district indicated information on the collection of personal belongings from the school would be sent out once a process was determined.

“While I’m concerned that this fire may have been deliberately set, I’m grateful that our students and staff were able to make it out of the building safely,” said Robyn Gray, superintendent of the Cowichan Valley School District. “I am also extremely grateful for the quick response of our local community fire departments. My thanks to both the Chemainus, Crofton and Ladysmith Fire Departments. As for the investigation, we will assist the RCMP where we can in order to get answers and closure on this event.”

“Police attended Chemainus Secondary School this morning upon learning about the fire in the building,” noted A/Corp. Dave Starr of the North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP. “The fire, which was started in a student bathroom, has been extinguished and is currently considered suspicious. We are working with the school board and the local fire department to establish how and why this occurred, and who was involved. We would also like to commend the quick actions of staff at the school and the fire department in ensuring that all students and others in the school were evacuated safely.”

One teacher said a fire drill was just held last week at the school so students were well-versed in what to do. They assembled on the lower grounds of the former Chemainus Elementary School adjacent to the high school.

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Students assemble on the lower grounds of the former Chemainus Elementary School after evacuating Chemainus Secondary School during a Wednesday morning fire. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Students assemble on the lower grounds of the former Chemainus Elementary School after evacuating Chemainus Secondary School during a Wednesday morning fire. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crofton fire department members roll out hoses at the scene of Chemainus Secondary School fire. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Crofton fire department members roll out hoses at the scene of Chemainus Secondary School fire. (Photo by Don Bodger)

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