Fire destroys 2 buildings at Dos Palos High

Fire destroyed two buildings at Dos Palos High School as flames swept through the wood, auto and agriculture mechanics shops Thursday afternoon.

The school's 760 students were sent home early. The cause remained under investigation late Thursday.

The fire began in the industrial arts building in the wood shop about 1:15 p.m. and quickly engulfed the second building, said Ryan Williams with CalFire. The first building contained the wood and auto shops and the second included the agriculture classroom and the agriculture mechanics classroom and shop.

By midafternoon Thursday, 63 firefighters from Chowchilla, Los Banos, Firebaugh, Merced, Atwater, Madera city and county and Fresno County had stopped the progress of the fire, but crews were still working on hot spots, Williams said.

Sensors in the industrial arts building set off the fire alarm, but there were no sprinklers, Williams said. Both buildings were built in the 1950s and never retrofitted for sprinklers, he said.

Damage was estimated at between $5 million and $10 million, Williams said..

There were no injuries to teachers, staff or students. The campus was evacuated, said Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint Unified School District spokeswoman Donna Buie.

"I thought they handled it really well," Williams said of the school's response. He said the campus was evacuated in a timely manner and students were moved to an elementary school.

"This is why we have fire drills," said Greg Thompson, Dos Palos High principal. "I commend our students and staff. They knew what to do."

Thompson said school would probably be in session today, but he would make the final decision after speaking with fire officials Thursday night. (Update: The school opened for regular classes Friday morning.)