Fire At Bear Creek High School Extinguished

Classes Canceled Wednesday

There will be no school on Wednesday for students at Bear Creek High School after a two-alarm blaze inside the school's small gym forced students to evacuate and canceled classes for the day.

It took about 30 minutes for two West Metro fire crews to extinguish the fire, which broke out at 11:52 a.m. Tuesday. The fire alarm sounded and students and staff evacuated to a nearby athletic field. Some students were at lunch during the time, school officials said.

"I was walking down the hallway when I got a call from my friend. And he said that the school was on fire and to come outside and look at it," said senior Alex Dick.

Even though the fire is extinguished, students were released for the day because of the heavy amount of smoke that lingered in the area, school officials said.

Students with vehicles were dismissed first because they were outside waiting and getting antsy, said Principal Dr. Phyllis Emrich. Then buses stopped at the Bear Creek Church, next to the school, to pick up the remainder of the students.

The school sent an automated message to parents through the phone and through e-mail, notifying them of the early release. Parents who wanted to picked up students were told to go to Bear Creek Church.

Classes for Wednesday have been canceled, but juniors will still have to take state-mandated ACT tests, school officials said. The 400 juniors at Bear Creek will have to go to Green Mountain High School, located at 13175 W. Green Mountain Drive, to take the ACTs on Wednesday.

Bear Creek juniors who ride the bus will be picked up at their regular time and location and transported to Green Mountain High School. But transportation after the test will not be provided, district officials said. The test will begin at 7:30 a.m. and expected to end at approximately 11:45 a.m.

Besides transportation, there is another problem juniors will have to resolve. Students must have a photo ID to take their tests, and many students left their backpacks, graphing calculators, and other belongings behind when they evacuated, school officials said.

The fire department is not allowing students back in the school to retrieve belongings.

"We have received many phone calls from students who are panicking because they can't get their calculators from the school and they need them for the ACT test," Emrich said.

The graphing calculators, typically used for the ACT test, cost approximately $100 each. School officials have spent the afternoon on the phone trying to get stores to donate calculators, but most of the large stores' corporate headquarters are located in the eastern U.S. and have closed for the day, district officials said.

The school district is asking for donations of the graphing calculators. Donations can be dropped off at the Jeffco Public Schools Education Center, 1829 Denver West Drive, in Golden 80401 until 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, or at Green Mountain High School between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

ACT tests assess high school students' general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work.

All activities, including athletic events for Bear Creek students have been canceled for the day. No decision has been made about school on Thursday.

No one was injured but there was one report of a student having an asthma attack, said West Metro Fire spokeswoman Cindy Matthews.

Crews are now working to ventilate the gym. Fire crews said they could see smoke from two blocks away when they were called to the fire.

The cause of the fire is not known. Some of the students told 7NEWS that it was a mat inside the gym that caught fire.

Emrich said the school is very old.

"I'm very tired of this. Last year, we had a very major fire in our ceramics room. We never did find a cause," Emrich said.

A new school is being built next door and it is scheduled to open next year.

Officials don't have an estimate of the damage to the gym.

Do you have a picture of the smoke or the flames? Send it to us at newstips@thedenverchannel.com

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