All is well at Kemper Elementary School, after a burned-out light caused a smell of smoke Friday morning, leading to an evacuation of all students and the arrival of first responders from at least six local agencies.
About 9:45 a.m., a Kemper custodian first smelled smoke coming out of the basement, according to Principal Jamie Haukeness.
Staff manually pulled the fire alarm, triggering a call to emergency responders and starting the procedure for a fire drill. Students and staff evacuated to the north side of the school.
“The staff and students are very well trained,” Haukeness said.
Fire engines arrived on-scene from the Cortez Fire Protection District, Lewis-Arriola Fire Protection District and the Dolores Fire Protection District, along with responders from the Southwest Health System, Cortez Police Department and Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office.
After investigating the school, firefighters discovered the source of the smoke odor was a fluorescent light bulb that burned out, according to Cortez Fire Chief Jay Balfour. Fire officials then searched the school and roof for potential cases of secondary smoke.
Officials sent a Nixle alert at 10:32 announcing that the school was safe.
A similar case happened a few months ago at Kemper, in which a burned-out fluorescent light bulb triggered the fire alarm. The fire department plans to collaborate with the school district’s maintenance department to comb through and evaluate all schools’ light fixtures, Balfour said.
He commended Kemper students and staff for their speedy response, and for manually pulling the fire alarm as the most expedient way to alert local responders and evacuate students.