Editorial note: This article has been updated since it was originally published. For updated information, please see bottom of article.
Residents in Kingston’s west end – along with the parents of students that attend Frontenac Secondary School (FSS) – were alarmed to see a large presence from the local fire department at the school on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023.
But despite the rumours circulating online that the school was “on fire” or had “burned down,” the incident was much smaller in nature. Those rumours were seemingly spurred by students at the school posting to social media as they were evacuated from FSS buildings, however, the students and staff simply left the school as they usually would during a fire drill and remained outside while crews with Kingston Fire & Rescue handled the actual situation at hand – an electrical fire contained to one of the two gymnasiums within the school that didn’t spread beyond a light fixture and the floor where parts of that light fixture fell.
At approximately 7:25 a.m., Kingston Fire & Rescue responded to an active fire alarm at FSS, located on Bath Road.
“Firefighters were met by custodial staff who advised there was a fire in the gym. A small fire was discovered on the gym floor where a light fixture had fallen from the ceiling,” the fire department said in response to Kingstonist inquiries.
“Fire was also observed in the ceiling of the gym where the light fixture had originated from. Both fires were quickly extinguished with the use of a fire extinguisher, fire hose, and scissor lift.”
While classes hadn’t started for the day at the time the fire alarm went off, many students were already in the school, attending clubs and practices ahead of the school day, as is often the case. All students and staff at FSS – including those at Module de l’Acadie, the grade seven and eight French immersion school within FSS – remained outside the school until firefighters cleared the scene at approximately 9:35 a.m.
“Firefighters spent approximately 90 minutes ventilating the gym and testing the air quality to ensure the building was safe to be occupied,” Kingston Fire & Rescue explained.
“Access to the gym was barricaded off to ensure staff and student safety.”
For its part, the Limestone District School Board (LDSB), relayed information to concerned parents and caregivers over social media.
“The school has evacuated and the fire department is on site. All students and staff are safe. We will provide updates here,” the board said on its X account (the social media platform formerly known as Twitter).
The board noted a delayed start to the school day, but stated that classes would proceed and that the building had been cleared by the fire department at 9:51 a.m.
“Community use of schools in the large gym will be cancelled. Info will be shared with users,” the board stated.
A number of social media users stated that the fire occurred after a ball hit a light fixture in the ceiling of the gym during regular athletic activity. Kingstonist attempted to confirm this with the LDSB, but no response was received by time of publication.
According to Kingston Fire & Rescue, the cost of the damages associated with the incident is estimated at $10,000.
“No firefighters or persons were injured during this event,” the fire department noted.
It is unknown when the gym will be reopened to students and those community groups who use it outside of school hours. Kingstonist will update this article if/when more information becomes available.
Update (Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023):
It should be noted that, while the Limestone District School Board (LDSB) was keeping parents, caregivers, and the community updated via social media during the fire incident on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2023, the board was also providing updates to parents and caregivers independent of the social media updates.
According to the LDSB, the families of students at both Frontenac Secondary School (FSS) and Module de l’Acadie received two direct messages (via email) about the fire yesterday morning as the incident was occurring, along with posts to social media. This process of notification is a protocol maintained by the board, as well as the schools within the LDSB.