TREENA MIELKE/Rimbey Review
Students due to write departmental exams last Thursday received an unexpected break when the school they attend was evacuated due to hot spots left from a fire that had ravaged the business next door.
The West Country Outreach School closed its doors after fire June 15 destroyed Rapid Gaz, located beside the school on 45th Avenue.
Larry Jacobs, superintendent of Wolf Creek Public Schools, said the school division also decided to evacuate the students June 16 as there was a concern that there were still hot spots to be dealt with.
“We were a little concerned about the fire starting again. But I understand there is no more reason for concern.”
Jacobs said moving the students was inconvenient because 12 students were due to write departmental exams.
However, he said Alberta Education may waive the requirements for the departmentals and the students may not be required to write the final exams.
Jacobs said the school division has no plans to take any action to relocate the school because of safety concerns.
“We have always been aware there is propane stored close to the school, but it is my understanding that they take all sorts of safety precautions and we have never had any problems before. There was no fires, no explosions.”
The fire, which caused more than $1 million in damage, was called in to the Rimbey Fire Department by a motorist driving by Rapid Gaz who saw flames shooting out of the building at around 2 a.m. June 15, said Rimbey fire chief, John Weisgerber.
He said the fire was brought under control in about 90 minutes by the local firemen, who were assisted by Ponoka Fire Department.
“They did a heck of a job,” he said. “They kept it from spreading.”
About 50 residents were evacuated due to a concern about the highly explosive materials on site, said Ryan Maier, assistant CAO for Rimbey.
He said the emergency operations centre was activated and a reception centre set up at the Rimbey Community Centre.
“By 4 a.m. the fire was determined to be contained and area residents were cleared to return to their homes,” he said.
Const. Daniel Kenny from the Rimbey RCMP said it was concern about the unknown that was the determining factor in evacuating the residents.
“We didn’t know what the quantity of propane was in the tanks and it turned out that the quantity was significantly less than anticipated initially.”
He said ATCO was contacted and natural gas shut off.
After the building was on fire there was an explosion inside the building, which could have been a small tank, he said.
Weisgerber said tires on a forklift that blew up also caused loud bangs.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Rapid Gaz manager Marc Laing did not return calls by press time.