The Varnett School- Northeast

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Students safely evacuated after nearby complex catches fire

Northeast Campus director Yolonda Brown and her staff perfectly followed protocol in evacuating about 100 students from the school after a fire broke out across the street Thursday afternoon.

A two-alarm fire erupted at a mechanic shop and later spread to a nearby apartment complex at about 3:35 p.m. on Mesa Road and North Houston. Mrs. Brown, who was directing vans out of the parking lot, saw the smoke and immediately dashed to the cafeteria where students had assembled for their after-school tutorials.

“I yelled for everybody to get out of the building,” she said and the staff ushered them to a parking lot on the other side of the playground north of the school. The students were kindergartners, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th graders.

Assistant campus director Dwain Wiley and teachers lined up beside the students and started calling parents to pick up their children. The tutorial sessions were cancelled.

“The key point was getting the kids out of here promptly,” Mrs. Brown said.

Students not in danger
According to Fox 26 news, firefighters arrived to find the shop and complex engulfed in heavy flames and smoke. “Due to the intensity of the blaze, they had to vacate the building, go on the defensive and call for a second alarm,” Fox 26 reported. Possible hazardous materials were reported to be inside the burning structure. No injuries were reported except for a firefighter who was hit on the head and chest by a beam. He was taken to a hospital with non life-threatening injuries.

Mrs. Brown said the children were not in danger but the school was fortunate the wind pushed the flames away from the Northeast Campus. Teachers spent their time comforting the children. “Some thought the school was on fire but we assured them that everything was OK and that they were safe. “ All the students were picked up by 5 p.m.

Ms. Gloria Simpson, the campus librarian and a member of the crisis management team, is the one who called 911. Maria Mendoza, the school clerk and also a crisis team member, assisted in ushering the students out of the building and helped notify parents.

The incident, Mrs. Brown said, taught students a valuable lesson: Fire drills, which occur twice a month, are serious.

Alsie Cluff III, assistant director of district operations, said the Northeast staff followed Varnett’s crisis manual policies. “I’m extremely proud of how administrators kept their cool and ensured the safety of faculty and students.” The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Above photo: Campus director Yolonda Brown

Below photo: 2-Alarm Fire in Northeast Houston/KRIV-TV

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