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Blaine High remains closed after ‘significant’ electrical blast

Explosion closes Blaine schools

An explosion in an electrical room late Wednesday, Sept. 28, knocked out power to the school district, canceling Thursday’s classes. The electrical room, a restroom and two classrooms were seriously damaged.
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An explosion in an electrical room late Wednesday, Sept. 28, knocked out power to the school district, canceling Thursday’s classes. The electrical room, a restroom and two classrooms were seriously damaged.

A powerful explosion at Blaine High School on Wednesday night, Sept. 28, closed the city’s public schools for Thursday, Sept. 29, and the high school for an undetermined length of time, city officials said.

Classes will resume Friday, Sept. 30, at all Blaine schools except the high school, said Superintendent Ron Spanjer. The incident also forced at least one Borderite sporting event to move.

“It’s obvious that it’s going to take some time to put power back to the campus directly,” Spanjer said. “As such, we’re beginning the process of considering alternatives.”

Cause of the blast was unknown, but it occurred in a mechanical room that houses electrical breakers and equipment for the building’s fire-suppression system and district-wide internet services, said Division Chief Henry Hollander of North Whatcom Fire and Rescue. The force of the blast damaged walls and the ceiling at the school, at 1055 H St.

“It was significant enough to basically decimate the interior of that room,” Spanjer said. “It blew the doors out of the panels and moved the interior walls out and into the adjoining classrooms by a distance of 6 to 12 inches.”

Those metal doors measured 7 feet by 10 feet, Hollander said.

No injuries were reported in the 6:40 p.m. Wednesday incident, Hollander said. It was reported initially as a fire with partial collapse, but firefighters found only residual smoke from the explosion.

“There wasn’t supposed to be anyone there, except for the custodian, but we did do a thorough search just to make certain,” he said.

Structural and electrical engineers and insurance adjusters were evaluating damage Thursday, Hollander said. A meeting was set late Thursday afternoon to discuss possible causes.

An electrical surge from the explosion tripped a fuse at the city’s power station, knocking out electricity to about 600 customers, said Wayne Mathers, light crew foreman at Blaine Public Works. Blaine supplies its own electricity.

Mathers said the high school was disconnected from the city’s electrical grid and power was restored elsewhere within an hour.

Automated calls began going to the Blaine School District’s 2,183 students Wednesday night, notifying parents that classes were canceled.

Tina Padilla, administrative assistant to Spanjer, said Thursday’s closure affected six locations: Blaine High school for grades nine through 12; Blaine Middle School, for grades six through eight; Blaine Elementary School, grades three through five; Blaine Primary School, which includes preschool, Head Start and kindergarten through second grade; Point Roberts Primary, a satellite campus for kindergarten through third grade; and Home Connections, an alternative school program.

Power and communications systems, including phone and internet services, were restored to those sites Thursday, Padilla said.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty

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