British Columbia

Fire damages Hornby Island Community School before start of school year

A fire burned at least one third of the Hornby Island Community School early Sunday.

Firefighters battled blaze for more than 12 hours

Firefighters say a third of the Hornby Island Community School is a complete loss after a fire on Sunday. (Supplied)

The B.C. school district responsible for the community school on Hornby Island says it's working to determine a plan for the start of the school year after a fire burned at least one third of the school early Sunday.

Firefighters from Hornby Island Fire Rescue and Denman Island Fire Rescue battled the blaze for 12 hours at the Hornby Island Community School.

The fire began sometime after 2 a.m. PT and destroyed the front part of the building. The middle section suffered fire and smoke damage and the back of the building has moderate smoke damage.

"The Board of Education is shocked and saddened that one week prior to the start of the new school year at the news of a devastating fire that has damaged the Hornby Island Community School," said Comox Valley school district chair Janice Caton in a release

Hornby Island lies just off the east coast of Vancouver Island, around 100 kilometres northwest of Nanaimo.

Hornby Island's volunteer fire service used all five of its trucks and 16 firefighters to battle the blaze.

Lots of help

It also asked for help from firefighters from nearby Denman Island. BC Ferries activated one of its ferries to go from Hornby Island to Denman Island around 4:30 a.m. and pick up seven more firefighters plus two trucks from the Denman Island Fire and Rescue.

Hornby Island fire chief, Doug Chinnery said work on the fire was a community effort.

Several groups provided assistance including Denman Island firefighters, BC Ferries, BC Ambulance and a contractor on the island, Chinnery said.

Firefighters worked for close to 12 hours to completely put out the fire. (Supplied)

'Community support incredible'

Local residents are dismayed about the damage, but thankful for everyone who worked to keep the school from completely being destroyed.

"My childhood elementary school just burned," wrote Brittany Jenna Andrews in a Facebook post.

Chinnery says residents brought food at the fire hall, which is down the road from the school.

"People just bringing by fresh baked cookies and all sorts of food has come here," he said. "The community support has been absolutely incredible.

A volunteer used an excavator to strip away metal roofing on the school so that firefighters could spray water onto the rafters of the ceiling. (Supplied)

Chinnery says he does not know how the fire started. Investigators from Courtenay and the RCMP are expected on Monday.

Meanwhile the school board says it will determine a plan for the school year.

Canton said all updates will be posted on the district and school websites.