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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, April 19, 2010

Fire destroys three classrooms at Kahului Elementary School

By Claudine San Nicolas
Maui News

KAHULUI Fire gutted three classrooms at Kahului Elementary School early Sunday, forcing officials to scramble for space and supplies to allow displaced teachers and students to hold classes Monday.

The fire reported at 12:57 a.m. also affected a fourth classroom that sustained minor fire, smoke and water damage. A fifth room had no damage but was left with a smoky smell.

On Monday morning, approximately 125 3rd- and 4th-graders and their teachers will be moved to other classrooms on campus.

"There's nothing left in these rooms," Principal Fern Markgraf said Sunday afternoon as an acrid smell of smoke hung in the air and she fought tears while looking at the three charred classrooms in "G" Building. "Nothing left."

Amy Nakashima, chairperson of the 3rd-grade level at Kahului School, lost everything in the classroom she had used to teach children for most of her 27-year career.

"I nearly flipped," Nakashima said. "I've never seen anything like this."

Mandy Sasada, another 3rd-grade teacher two doors down from Nakashima, said she was shocked by the damage of the fire, which was so intense that it melted metal roofing beams and plastic chairs.

"The displacement of it all ... I feel lost," Sasada said.

Sasada predicted that her students would express sadness this morning. She also expects her group of 8-year-olds to be confused."They're not going to understand it," she said last night.

Nakashima took the losses in stride.

"It's just things, and they can be replaced," she said. "Everybody's safe, and the kids are so young they can adjust and make the changes that need to be made."

Markgraf said she was called almost immediately after firefighters showed up at the school at 1:02 a.m. The fire was under control a half-hour later and officially extinguished at 4:17 a.m., according to acting Battalion Chief Rory Macadangdang.

Structure losses, according to Macadangdang, were estimated at $450,000 and the contents at $50,000. Kahului and Wailuku engine companies as well as the rescue and hazardous materials teams from the Kahului station assisted in responding to the fire.

The cause remains under investigation.

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