Firecrews were called to Canton-Galva Middle School at about 2:30 this morning for a fire.
By Cristina Janney
GALVA — Firecrews were called to Canton-Galva Middle School at about 2:30 this morning for a fire.
Fire officials believe a lightning strike from this morning's storm started the fire in the school's gym.
The fire was confined to the gym, and no one was injured, said Richard Baldwin, Galva Fire Department captain.
The fire left a gaping hole in the gym's roof and charred the gym floor and walls.
Canton-Galva Superintendent Bill Seidl said the building, which houses fourth- through eighth-graders, is structurally sound and safe.
At this point, the district plans to open the school as planned for the fall semester.
Seidl said the gym will be shut off until necessary repairs can be made.
The district expects insurance will pay for the building repairs, except for a $1,000 deductible.
The same gym suffered damage just a couple of weeks ago in another storm. A new addition to the building is being added as part of an $8.6 million bond issue. Work is being done so the district can operate two schools instead of three. The middle school will be converted into a pre-k through sixth-grade center, and the high school will house grades seven through 12.
Because of an opening created by the construction at the middle school, water got underneath the floor of the gym, causing it to buckle.
Construction crews had stripped the floor and were preparing to replace it. The floor replacement will be paid for by the construction insurance.
The fire did not affect any of the new construction and should not delay further work on the bond project, Seidl said. Bond project construction crews were working this morning as insurance adjusters were assessing the damage to the gym.
A fire damage estimate has not yet been set.
The fire was reported to 911 by personnel aboard a passing Union Pacific train.
Seidl said he was very appreciative of that report and the quick response of the Galva Fire Department and the McPherson Fire Department, which was called to assist.
"It could have been different," Seidl said. "If that had been allowed to burn for another 30 or 45 minutes, the damage would have been larger. My guess is that the roof would have been weaker, and the whole thing could have come caving in. Who knows what would have happened."
The McPherson Fire Department ladder was brought in to help gain access to the roof of the building so the fire could be fought from inside and above, Baldwin said. Crews from McPherson EMS also were on standby to assist firefighters. Crews were on scene until about 7:45 this morning.
No adjacent structures were threatened by the fire.
In fact, some neighbors said they slept through the blaze.
Jennifer Hunt, who lives down the street from the school, said she saw the fire trucks when she let her dogs out at about 3 a.m.
Hunt's son is a student at the school. After looking at the damage, she said she was uncertain the building would be ready in time for school to start on time.
"It is so sad," she said. "We had such an amazing gym."
Korbin Hunt, 10, said he was surprised by the amount of damage that could be done by lightening. However, he didn't seem to be bothered by the incident.
When asked what he thought of the fire, he simply said "Awesome!"