A snake was saved from a potential fire at North Fork Elementary School in Woodland Friday morning

Upon locating a classroom with heavy smoke, firefighters discovered a terrarium containing the snake with smoldering wood chips inside

Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue (CCFR) units were dispatched at 5:31 a.m. Friday (Oct. 1) to a report of smoke inside North Fork Elementary School, located at 2250 Lewis River Road in Woodland.

A school staff member had arrived for work and discovered smoke inside the school and acted quickly with a call to 9-1-1. A CCFR engine from the Woodland fire station arrived seven minutes later (5:38 a.m.) to find light smoke in the building. The crew began a search for the source of smoke while other arriving units began operations to provide fire suppression in case it was needed.

Upon locating a classroom with heavy smoke, the crew discovered a terrarium with smoldering wood chips inside. A heating pad had been placed too close to combustible materials under the terrarium and eventually caught fire. Fortunately, the snake inside the terrarium survived and damage was limited to the terrarium and surrounding materials. 

Upon locating a classroom with heavy smoke, the crew discovered a terrarium with smoldering wood chips inside. A heating pad had been placed too close to combustible materials under the terrarium and eventually caught fire. Fortunately, the snake inside the terrarium survived and damage was limited to the terrarium and surrounding materials. Photo courtesy Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue
Upon locating a classroom with heavy smoke, the crew discovered a terrarium with smoldering wood chips inside. A heating pad had been placed too close to combustible materials under the terrarium and eventually caught fire. Fortunately, the snake inside the terrarium survived and damage was limited to the terrarium and surrounding materials. Photo courtesy Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue

Fire crews used fans to blow the smoke out of the classroom and the remainder of the building.  The building was protected with fire sprinklers that did not activate due to the very small and limited size of the fire.   Had the fire spread beyond the terrarium it likely would have been quickly controlled by a single fire sprinkler.

School district staff responded to this incident quickly and appropriately.   Michael Green, the superintendent of Woodland Public Schools, stated “We have a great team that is focused on safety and is always on the lookout for risks and hazards.  We will use this opportunity to draw focus on the safe use of approved appliances with our entire team.”

Fire Chief John Nohr stated, “Our team was able to respond quickly and keep this incident small while our Community Risk reduction staff investigated the incident with the help of the Clark County Fire Marshal’s office.   We are grateful for the positive safety culture and responsiveness of all of our School District partners.  We will continue our work with all of our community partners, using examples like this, for ongoing fire prevention and safety efforts.”

Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue reminds all people to use extreme caution with any heating appliance and follow these basic guidelines to keep you and your home or workplace safe:

  • Use all appliances in accordance with the directions and manufacturer recommendations (many instructions and manuals can be found on-line and free of charge)
  • Keep combustibles at least 3-feet from any heating device
  • Regularly inspect all electric or fuel burning appliance and do not use if they are damaged
  • Regularly check your smoke alarms or fire protection systems to ensure they are working properly
  • Consider fire sprinklers to protect your home or business

Information provided by Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue. 

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