Fire damages Southwest Travis County school



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Posted on March 8, 2013 at 12:52 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 8 at 7:26 PM

TRAVIS COUNTY -- The Travis County Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating an early morning fire.

Flames burned through part of the Cedars Montessori School on Circle Drive in Southwest Travis County Friday morning.  

“The call came in from the sheriff's department,” explained District Chief of the Oak Hill Fire Department Robert Hartigan. “They're on Thomas Springs Road and they smelled the smoke.”
The Oak Hill Fire Department is actually on the same street as the school -- less than half a mile away. However, when firefighters got to the school, it was too late. When firefighters arrived, they say flames had already destroyed one building on the 17-acre campus and were spreading.
“It was more of a surround and drown [mission],” said Hartigan. “We had just put lots of water on there to where it wouldn't spread out. We had a potential of it getting into the trees.”
Hartigan said the flames hit the school’s office building as well, damaging part of the roof.
Owner Jill Young says the school was closed for the day Friday.
Young opened the campus 37 years ago. She says the building that burned to the ground housed early elementary classrooms for first, second and third grade. School administrator Sarah Critchfield said a room called The Fig Tree Cottage was destroyed.
The flames also burned through the roof in the office building. That’s where the school’s new library just opened.
On Thursday students held a celebration in honor of the grand opening. The library was built and named in honor of former student West McClendon. Critchfield says McClendon died three years ago in a plane crash. His mother was a teacher at Cedars Montessori. The boy’s parents donated $14,000 to the school to pay for the construction of the library.
Firefighters worked with the owners to pull all of the books out of the building. They saved them from the flames and water.
Investigators are still determining the cause of the fire.
All 170 students who attend the school will be out on spring break next week. Classes will resume March 18.

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