Hamilton police's arson unit probes classroom fire

Hamilton police are treating a Tuesday classroom fire at Elizabeth Bagshaw Elementary School as suspicious.

Elizabeth Bagshaw Elementary School closed until after March break

Hamilton police are treating a Tuesday classroom fire at Elizabeth Bagshaw Elementary School as suspicious.

Investigators with the police's arson unit are now conducting a probe into the incident. 

Debbie McGreal-Dinning, a spokewoman for the Hamilton Police Service, wouldn't say what prompted police to deem the fire suspicious.

"That's part of the investigation," she said on Wednesday. 

McGreal-Dinning said she didn't know when they investigation will conclude. 

The fire started around 9:30 a.m. in a classroom on the second floor of the school, located on Albright Road just west of the Red Hill Valley Parkway, said Hamilton Fire Department spokesman Claudio Mostacci. 

The fire was isolated to the one classroom. No one was inside the room at the time of the fire, and there were no injuries.

Students and staff evacuated to the neighbouring Red Hill Learning Centre. The board decided to send the children home later in the day.

The fire caused an estimated $250,000 in damage, Mostacci said on Wednesday morning. 

School closed for cleanup 

The school will be closed until after March Break in the wake of Tuesday's fire. 

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) say firefighters may have “disturbed” asbestos contained in the walls during the effort to put out the flames.

“Cleanup will take place in the days ahead,” HWDSB spokeswoman Jackie Penman wrote in a statement Tuesday night.

“The Board will be reviewing the environmental conditions in the building to ensure the health and safety of all staff and students.”

Classes have been cancelled for Wednesday and Thursday. Students were already set to be off on March 7, which the Wynne government, in a measure to cut costs, has scheduled as an unpaid day for teachers. And next week is March Break for elementary and high school students across Ontario.

Help for students

Because they had to flee the building quickly on Tuesday, most students left personal belongings, including their bags and coats, inside the school, Penman said. 

Students who left items in the basement and on the first floor will be able to retrieve their once an assessment of the building is complete. The board says it will contact parents and guardians on Thursday morning to inform them of when the pickup will take place.

Children who left items on the second floor will have to wait longer, the board warned.

The Salvation Army is donating 100 coats and hats to students who have been affected by the fire. Families can learn more by meeting with staff in the library at Sir Wilfred Laurier school (70 Albright Rd.) on Wednesday.

The fire has affected other programming run out of the Elizabeth Bagshaw school:

  • The K-6 daycare has been temporarily relocated to Sir Wilfred Laurier school. Parents can call 905-573-7540 for more information.
  • PreSchool Universal will not be offered during the cleanup.
  • The Ontario Early Years Centre at Elizabeth Bagshaw school has been temporarily relocated to 20 Congress Cr. For more information, call 905-578-2531.