St. Albans School Evacuated As Smoke Plume Presents Possible Health Hazard

For Immediate Release: December 21, 2006

Contact: Communication Office
863-7281

BURLINGTON – St. Albans City Elementary School was evacuated today after a fire at an abandoned warehouse building (the Old Ice House) on Walnut Street raised health concerns with potential pollutants from the smoke. The building is located approximately 300 yards from the school near the railway.

The Vermont Department of Health recommended the school evacuate all 800 students, pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, after reports this morning that the plume of smoke could impact the school. The Health Department advised school officials to move the students to a location farther away.

Students were moved by bus to the Collins-Perley Sports Complex.

“As a precaution, we advised the school superintendent to close the school and move the students because of possible toxins in the smoke,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN. “Even as the wind shifted the plume away from the school, we continued to be concerned about the closeness of the school to the fire. We’ve been advised that the burn was significant and that the smoke hazard would continue for quite some time. There has been no immediate health concern to the public, however, if the wind shifted again – we wanted the students and staff to be away from the immediate area.”

The Health Department was not able to confirm whether there were harmful materials in the building, but potential concerns when there is a fire in a building include byproducts of combustion such as carbon monoxide, particulate matter and nitrogen oxide.

The greater the distance from the source of the fire, the less likely the potentially harmful pollutants will impact the health of students and staff.

The Red Cross was also notified to provide possible support for students at the Collins-Perley Sports Complex. Students were advised to stay at Collins-Perley through the end of the school day or until they are bussed home.

“I want to commend the quick action of the school in evacuating the students,” Commissioner Moffatt said. “This is clearly a matter of taking precautionary measures.”

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