Fire starts on roof of new school under construction in Winkler

Black smoke could be seen billowing from a new elementary school still being built in Winkler, Man., on Wednesday, after a fire started at the construction site.

Mayor unsure whether blaze will delay planned fall opening of Pine Ridge elementary

Black smoke could be seen billowing from the site of the new Pine Ridge Elementary School in Winkler, Man., on Wednesday. (Submitted by Lena Friesen)

Black smoke could be seen billowing from a new elementary school still being built in Winkler, Man., on Wednesday, after a fire started at the construction site.

The fire started at the site of the new Pine Ridge Elementary School some time in the afternoon, said Todd Monster, superintendent of Garden Valley School Division.

Construction started at the school about a year ago and it is set to open this fall for students from kindergarten to Grade 8, Monster said.

The division has no information yet about the cause of the fire, any injuries it may have caused or the possible damage to the site, he said.

Winkler police Chief Ryan Hunt said the fire started on the roof of the school, but was noticed immediately by the construction crews working there.

"That was probably able to keep the damage to a minimum, because they were able to see it so quickly," he said.

Monster said the division will work with the general contractor to determine damage and create a plan once the fire has been dealt with.

"First thing, of course, as always, is making sure that everyone is OK, that the people that are there are all safe and sound. That's always the first priority," he said.

"The second thing, then, is wondering about the status of the construction there … how much damage and, you know, what those implications might be."

Winkler Mayor Martin Harder told CBC News it's too soon to know whether the fire will delay the opening of the new school planned for this fall.

"Until they determine how deep the fire has gone or whether it actually penetrated the roof system or if it's just surface, I mean those are the things that they need to determine," he said in an interview with Ismaila Alfa, host of CBC Manitoba's Up to Speed.

Harder said they're already looking at how to approach any potential problems in relation to the school.

"There's a lot of wheels in motion, in regards to the relocation of kids …. Teachers and principals have been hired, so it's full steam ahead for the fall," he said.

"As a municipality we're pretty concerned to make sure that the school is ready for occupancy come fall."

The school was set to provide some normalcy to students who had been bouncing between temporary setups in past years, according to Harder.

"This was an effort in order to stabilize it somewhat and ensure that our students get a quality education in environments that are suitable for learning," he said.

Winkler is roughly 100 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

With files from Ismaila Alfa


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