Updated: Fired Up

OHS evacuated after a fire in the auditorium


Damage to the stage

Wednesday at 2:10 p.m. seniors were supposed to be let out of class early to attend the traditional senior send off. At approximately 12:30 p.m. students were swept outside for what most thought was just a practice fire drill. Later, as they were safely outside, speculations arose about the alarm possibly being part of an assumed senior prank. The actual reason that the fire alarm went off was because a fire started on stage in the auditorium. The cause of the fire has been determined to be accidental due to a lighting issue. English teacher  and Theatre director Mr. Erik Eitrheim said, “It was a series of events that led to a misfortunate accident. This was not planned by anybody or an explosion in the boiler room.” A light called a runt, made by Altman, was supposed to be faced straight down. One of the many curtains on stage, called a mid-stage traveler, moved the runt and switched its direction making it face sideways.

Over the course of day a few classes used the auditorium.  No one was in the auditorium when  the fire alarm went off and everyone at OHS was safely evacuated. The damage done is still being determined, but the sprinkler system only went off where the fire occurred. Mr. Eitrheim said, “What happened next, I don’t know the answer to. The curtains are supposed to be fire resistant and had the fire retardant redone two years ago. If the curtains get in touch with a heat source they are designed to burn and end up with a big hole, what shouldn’t happen is what happened.” The fire went up the curtain and spread to other curtains. The damage is from water and smoke. Water did not get everywhere, only on the right side of the stage. A company is cleaning up the smoke from the fabric in the auditorium. Repairs and replacements are still to be discussed. He also said it could have been far worse if this accident would have happened Tuesday during the final or during a concert.

The senior send-off was cancelled and nobody was allowed back in the building for safety purposes. Students’ personal belongings were secured by OHS staff.  The building opened at 7:50 a.m. for students. Commencement practice went on at the Four Seasons Centre at 11 for graduating seniors as planned. Seniors were allowed to watch the “Senior Video” created by Magnet Staffer Jake Woodrich.   Owatonna Fire Department and Owatonna Police Department did an excellent job securing the building and keeping everyone safe.