School fire disrupts third day of school

Classroom+fire+being+extinguished+by+Mr.+Mathus+prior+to+evacuation.

Lauren Sullivan

Classroom fire being extinguished by Mr. Mathus prior to evacuation.

Maria Stefani, Staff Writer

On the morning of Thursday, September 8th, 2022, at approximately 9:35 A.M Eastern Standard Time, the fire alarm sounded, sending a wave of confusion throughout Bernards High School. 

“I wondered why we would have a fire drill on only the third day of school,” thought sophomore Sophia Maheras, “it just didn’t much make sense.” 

Minutes later as students were all gathered outside, they heard fire truck sirens as they pulled into the school’s parking lot, confirming suspicions that this was, in fact, not a drill. 

The fire started in a sophomore accelerated chemistry class taught by Mr. Mathus. To demonstrate the fire blanket, Mathus had a student throw a match onto his desk, which had a small amount of methanol on it. He immediately threw the blanket over the fire in an attempt to put it out. 

“While patting down the fire blanket, I noticed it getting hotter rather than cooling down. I pulled up a small corner of the blanket to find that the blanket had caught fire, as well,” describes Mr. Mathus. Mr. Mathus, then, successfully put out the fire using the fire extinguisher. 

The smoke from the fire set off the fire alarm, alerting all students and faculty to evacuate the building with the exception of Mr. Mathus, who stayed to make sure that the fire was out before following his class outside. He, later, went back into the building with the fire department to assist them and explain what happened. Students stood outside in various locations around Bernards High School for over thirty minutes, missing more than half of their Block 2, Period 3 class, before they were allowed to return to the building. 

Mr. Mathus reports feeling “calm until [he] noticed the blanket on fire,” then, “nervous that someone was going to get hurt or that [his desk] would catch on fire more than it was.” However, despite his nervousness, Mr. Mathus “did what needed to be done and got the fire out.” 

Sophomore, Lauren Sullivan, who was in the Chemistry class in which the fire occurred, says she felt “shocked when the fire alarm went off because she had never experienced a real school fire, let alone been in the room where one occurred”. Although some sophomores, who were in the class, reported coughing from the smoke, there were no serious injuries to any students or teachers in the building. 

Damage to the classroom itself was minimal with the exception of the poster that caught on fire. However, Mr. Mathus later reported that some of the pencils in the drawers of his desk were left with burn marks on them. The chemistry wing of Bernards High School was closed until all the damage was taken care of and the fire department cleared the building. Students were told to report to the Performing Arts Center instead of their Chemistry classroom. 

The fire made for an interesting third day of school for students.