A fast-moving fire caused major damage to one wing of Dos Palos High School, resulting in three days of cancelled classes.

The fire started early in the morning of Sept.14.  It was called in by a school maintenance worker and by the time firefighters arrived, the wing was almost fully involved with flames. Smoke was visible for miles.

Megan Grijalva, the superintendent of the Dos Palos/Oro Loma Joint Unified School District, said that the fire, on the third wing of the school, destroyed three out of the seven classrooms on the wing.  Two other rooms received significant water damage as well as damage to the roof as firefighters cut holes to vent the heat and smoke.

Merced County firefighters were joined in the effort by other agencies who responded to the mutual aid call.  Departments who joined in the fight included the cities of Firebaugh, Los Banos, Merced, Atwater, Chowchilla, Madera, Livingston and Madera County.

This is the second serious fire at the campus, with the last one occurring in 2009.  School district personnel are well-versed in dealing with this type of adversity.

Grijalva said that workers spent most of last week cleaning the area up to make sure the campus was ready for instruction on Sept. 19. 

Besides the damage to the building, key items lost were computers, books, desks, classroom materials, a 3-D printer, poster makers, and interactive boards.

Teachers reported to work last Friday to plan adjustments so that the students will be taken care of when classes resume.

 “Fortunately, a lot of our curriculum is web-based so we will be able to pick (instruction) right back up,” Grijalva explained.

Grijalva also expressed her appreciation for the assistance from both inside and outside of Dos Palos in dealing with the loss.

“The community outreach and offers of help have been wonderful,” said Grijalva.  “The response from other communities in fighting the fire and the overall support is just humbling and the No. 1 thing we are grateful for is no one got hurt.”

While no official word has been given to the cause of the fire, signs point to an air conditioning unit on the wing.  The school district is currently working with the insurance carrier to come up with a dollar amount for damages.

David Borboa