MOREHEAD CITY, CARTERET COUNTY - Investigators have ruled the fire that caused more than $100,000 in damage at West Carteret High School as accidental.
According to the Morehead City Fire Department, multiple units were dispatched to the school at about 12:49 p.m. Wednesday. Investigators said the fire started in the high school's band uniform storage room.
Fire officials said when they arrived, heavy black smoke was filling the school's halls. They said they were able to quickly extinguish the blaze in the band uniform room. But the fire cause more than $100,000 in smoke damage to uniforms and percussion instruments, according to investigators.
The building was also damaged, but because of the masonry construction, the damage was cosmetic and can be repaired, fire officials said. The cost of the damage to the building is unknown.
Investigators said the fire started near an older electrical outlet in the band uniform room. They have ruled the fire as accidental.
No one was injured, fire officials said.
Principal Carolyn Heller said she was in her office when the fire alarm went off. She said the alarm showed the blaze was near the cafeteria.
"I got there and that's when the fire alarm went off and then, I started seeing some black smoke coming from underneath," she said.
The school's color guard team was practicing inside the gym when the fire started. Heller said once she realized what was happening, everyone was evacuated immediately.
Third year color guard student Avery Struyk said she's happy everyone got out safely.
"It's crazy, like I could have been stuck in there. Something could of happened and we wouldn't have known. I'm just glad we got out," Struyk said.
Principal Heller said the band's brand new uniforms were inside the storage room that caught fire. She said it was a community effort to raise $90,000 for the uniforms last year and now, they may have to start over.
"I've already had parents come by who helped raise it, very sad with tears in their eyes because it's like a family unit with the bands," Heller said.
The West Carteret High School band was chosen as the only high school band in the country to appear in the Disney Parks Christmas Day Parade last year. Heller said she knows the school will pull together to raise the money again if they must.
School officials said they believe the uniforms are covered under the school's insurance policy, but aren't completely sure at this time.
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