May 16. 2013 12:10PM

Small fire at Claremont school investigated by police

Union Leader Correspondent

CLAREMONT – A small fire at Claremont Middle School Wednesday is being investigated by police, Fire Chief Richard Bergeron said.

"The fire is suspicious in nature and continues to be investigated," Bergeron said.

Firefighters responded to the school at 11:30 a.m. when the sprinkler system was activated.

The fire occurred in the boy's bathroom off the boy's locker room. It caused minimal damage and was controlled by the sprinkler system, Bergeron said.

"What is noteworthy here is that up until two years ago that building had not been sprinklered so it would have been a different story if they had not been in place," Bergeron said.

The state Fire Marshal's Office has been notified, but the fire is being investigated by local police and firefighters, he said. "Claremont police are working with school and fire investigators. The incident is considered suspicious and is under investigation."

Firefighters stayed on scene for two hours clearing smoke and checking the building, he said. There were some smoke conditions in the gym area, Bergeron said.

Students were evacuated and spent time outside and in the cafeteria until they were released early at 1 p.m.

"Fortunately the weather was decent, they were outside," Bergeron said.

Students were able to come inside to eat lunch, he said. "We were able to isolate the cafeteria, and the teachers were allowed to channel their children in and out of the cafeteria through external doors."

April Woodman, assistant to the superintendent of SAU 6, said no one was injured.

"There was nobody in the area at that time and it was more like a fire drill for them. … It was essentially like a fire drill for them and they were sent home," she said. "Obviously it was a disruption to learning time."

Students do not have to make up the hour of school lost because it was lost under emergency circumstances, she said.