The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

February 27, 2012

Blaze destroys former school

— A Blacklick Township high school that once served students for 50 years was claimed by flames Sunday.

But despite issues extinguishing blaze, no one was seriously hurt, responders said.

“It was a total loss,” Nanty Glo Deputy Chief Rich Brown said.  “But everyone got out OK ... even the pets.”

It took more than five hours to snuff out the Red Mill Road blaze - an act hampered by a limited water supply that forced many responders to focus their attention on bringing water in to the site, just off Route 271.

A state police fire marshal was expected to investigate Monday but Brown said it did not appear suspicious.

Several occupants, including the building’s owner, Lee Rummel, escaped the blaze.

The Blacklick Township man said he was burning overgrown brush behind the school “to prevent something like this from happening,” adding he worried the dry vegetation would spark up when the weather warmed up.

But the wind took over, Rummel said.

“I (used) my fire extinguisher but it was no good,” he said, adding that he called for friends to help but despite their best efforts, it was too late.

“It was just a matter of minutes. Up it went,” Rummel added, saying he was grateful his wife - the only other occupant at the time - escaped without injury.

Nanty Glo firefighters said the biggest issue was that all hydrants in the area were fed by a single, smaller water line that provided a limited water supply. Only so many could connect to the line without impacting the pressure, they added.

For some of the more than 50 firefighters from Jackson Township, Revloc, Colver, Conemaugh, Vintondale, Ebensburg and Northern Cambria’s Hope departments at the scene Sunday evening, it meant they had to shuttle in water from more than a mile away for a backup source.   

Others could only watch from the sidelines.

Two firefighters were treated for minor cuts, Brown said.

The two story schoolhouse, served as the district’s home from the 1920s until its closure in the late 1960s, Tribune-Democrat records show.

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