When the fire alarm bells sounded at Huntington High School early Friday morning it wasn't a drill. It was the real thing. The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and the Huntington Manor Fire Department was on the scene within ten minutes, using about 1,000 gallons of water to put the fire out. The Suffolk Police arson squad is actively investigating.
"This was arson and we take it very seriously," Assistant Superintendent David H. Grackin said. Arson investigators arrived within hours of the fire to begin their work. The building is under 24-hour video surveillance and tapes are being reviewed for possible clues to the crime.
The early morning blaze occurred on the roof of the 52 year old building, above rooms 200 and 201. The fire alarm sounded when smoke was detected inside the structure. Among the district officials responding to the scene were Director of Facilities Paul Rispoli, Operations Supervisor Alvin White, Superintendent John J. Finello and Mr. Grackin, along with several members of the buildings and grounds department staff.
School officials contacted the New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal at about 5 a.m. and an adjuster was at the high school by 6:30 a.m. Trucks from Belfor Property Restoration, which was called in for cleaning and repairs, pulled up to the school at 8 a.m.
Damage to the building was contained. "The fire department did a nice job," Mr. Grackin said. "They didn't overdo it." Firefighters were on the scene for about 45 minutes.
The Belfor emergency response team included electricians, roofers, cleaners and painters. Computers were relocated out of room 201, ceiling tiles were removed and walls, ceilings and floors were scrubbed clean. A special paint was applied to encapsulate any remaining smells and then the two rooms were repainted and new ceiling tiles were installed. A thermostat in room 200 also needed to be replaced.
A 6 x 12 foot section of the rubberized roof had to be removed and replaced. "The fire actually punched holes into the roof deck," Mr. Grackin said. Fans, ozone and negative air machines were activated in the first and second floor front hallways to remove all traces of smoke and to purify the air. Belfor used a special "clean air with activated charcoal" cream that was put on fan filters.
With the recent fire in West Babylon that destroyed an elementary school still fresh in mind, district officials said it was fortunate the damage to Huntington High School was limited. "It could have been disastrous," Mr. Rispoli said.
Anyone with information about the fire can anonymously call Mr. Grackin's office at 673-2111.
Story courtesy Huntington Union Free School District.