GREEN BAY – A fire damaged the gym at Preble High School early Friday morning.
Firefighters say they were called to the school at 2222 Deckner Ave. just before 1:40 a.m. A fire alarm had gone off, and workers from the alarm company went to investigate. That’s when they saw smoke coming from the gym and called the fire department.
“It could have been activated by the smoke,” said Mike Stangle, the school district’s facilities director. “The sensors it looks like went off after the fire started.”
Fire officials say the damage inside Preble is extensive, with the gymnasium, hit the hardest.
The school’s principal, Natasha Rowell, says it looks like classes should begin on schedule the day after Labor Day.
Fire investigators were at the school throughout Friday trying to piece together what might have started the fire.
“Everything is black in there,” said Bill Dessert Jr, a 1965 Preble who went to the school to look at the damage. “The walls normally had color on them. It looks like you’re looking into a coal bin.”
Dessert’s father, Bill Dessert Sr, is who the gym is named after. He coached the school’s football team for 31 years.
When fire crews arrived to the fire, they say it took about an hour and a half to get the fire under control.
“There was some difficulty locating the fire just based on the size of the facility and basically zero visibility throughout,” said Robert Goplin, the battalion chief for Green Bay Metro. “The fire was contained primarily to the gymnasium. There is smoke damage we can confirm throughout the rest of the building.”
The effort to clean up the damage has already started. Rowell says restoration work will be happening around the clock.
“The fire department has not completely released the building to us so nobody is excessing that area, but we are able to continue through the building to see how things are,” said Rowell.
While there is plenty of work ahead, members of the Preble community say they are just happy no one was hurt.
“The gym can be replaced,” said Ryan Nitka, a Preble graduate. “It’s the memories that are going to be hard to replace.”
Fire officials say the investigation is still in its early stages. They say it could be a while before they know a possible cause. However, school officials say it appears the fire started near the gym’s bleachers.