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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Granada Hills

School Gym Fire Adds to Recent Anxieties

May 08, 1999|KURT STREETER

A fire that damaged a portion of the Granada Hills High School gym Friday morning added to the anxiety felt by some students and parents since the Columbine High School tragedy and rumors of threats on the north Valley campus.

The fire began about 8:45 a.m. underneath a basketball gym floor that was under construction, according to Los Angeles Fire Department spokesperson Tim McDonell. Firefighters put rthe fire out in about 20 minutes, he said.

Although the fire was still under investigation, McDonell said foul play had been ruled out, and the cause may have been a spark from a sanding machine.

One student suffered an asthma attack after breathing in smoke and was treated by emergency crews on the scene, according to Principal Kathleen Rattay.

Although only a 40-square-foot patch of the gym's floor was destroyed, Rattay said the entire floor would have to be replaced.

By 10 a.m., with three TV helicopters buzzing overhead and firetrucks rolling onto campus, dozens of parents began to arrive at the school.

Many said they were worried that a violent incident had happened and rushed to the scene after hearing news accounts of the fire. Some took their children home for the day.

"It was very frightening for me," Demetra Rees said as she led three of her children out of the school. "After the rumors that something bad was going to happen, I'm not taking any chances. I'm taking my kids out of school today."

Meanwhile on campus, reactions to the fire varied. Some classrooms were evacuated while others remained in a business-as-usual mode.

Erin Rose, a 17-year-old senior, said that when students in her classroom saw smoke, many were scared. "We thought it was a bomb," she said, adding that the school had been tense after rumors earlier this week of potential violence associated with Cinco de Mayo.

Student Alex Aguilar, 17, said, "It's just ironic that a fire would happen here after what went on in Colorado. Everyone is a little jumpy, but if this little fire happened last year, nobody would be worried at all."

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