Roof collapses during fire at Shaker Heights elementary school

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SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio— Fernway Elementary School in Shaker Heights will be closed until further notice after the roof caught fire Tuesday morning. Firefighters were called to the school just after 11 a.m. for smoke coming from the roof.

Fire Chief Patrick Sweeney said it appears the fire started on the roof. There was only one person inside the building at the time and they got out safely.

Sweeney said the style of the school’s old roof made fighting the fire difficult.

“They’re pitched roofs with heavy timber and wide open all the way around in these buildings so the fire just made its way. Once it gets up there and it’s such a size that it’s almost impossible to get crews up there with hand lines to get up there and try to put the fire out,” Sweeney said.

Children, who live in the neighborhood and go to school at Fernway, stood and watched as firefighters worked for hours to put out the flames.

“It looked like lava coming out of the school and it was so heartbreaking you see that black smoke coming up and it was really hard,” said Molly Milligan, a sixth-grade student.

Officials said there was a contractor on the roof doing work on Tuesday and they were working when the fire started. Sweeney said they can’t say whether the fire was related to the crews’ work.

Mayor David Weiss said the city and school board will work to get Fernway back up and running as soon as possible, but the damage is severe. There are large sections of the roof missing and they may have to look into some alternative options for students.

“People take this as a loss to their community. We’re lucky that there were no casualties but the building is a casualty and that means a lot to these neighborhoods,” Weiss said.

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