EDISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — An extra-alarm fire ripped through an elementary school in Edison, N.J. on Saturday evening, and left the school burned to the ground.
As CBS 2’s Don Champion reported, investigators were calling the fire suspicious late Saturday.
“This is absolutely a devastating tragedy for our school community, and words can’t begin to say how hard it is for our community,” said Edison Public Schools Supt. Richard O’Malley.
The six-alarm fire consumed the James Monroe Elementary School, at 7 Sharp Rd. in Edison. Towering flames ripped through the school and showed no mercy.
“I looked, it’s like, ‘Oh my God,’” said neighbor Terry McAleer.
Word of the situation spread just as quickly as the fast-moving flames. Neighbors flocked to the scene to watch firefighters struggle to get control.
But by late Saturday, the school had nearly burned to the ground.
“The entire school seems to be demolished at this point in time,” O’Malley said.
The school has been home to neighborhood children for decades, and for some, watching the flames was like watching memories disappear.
“This is a true neighborhood school,” said neighbor Sheri Podob. “And it’s right in the center of the neighborhood. If you don’t live here, you don’t know that it even exists.”
“My daughter goes to school here and you know, everything is just a total loss, and it’s just sad that, you know, there are so many memories, you know, from this school,” said neighbor Alexis Spagnoli.
The fire broke out just before 8 p.m. Saturday, and engulfed the whole school within minutes. Extra firefighters were quickly called to the scene to help because the fire grew so big.
More than two hours after it started, flames and thick smoke were still rising from the building.
Neighbor Dan Lordi told 1010 WINS his house is right next door.
“Where I went to school when I was a young’un, they said it’s in flames. I come running home, and they’re just letting it burn right now. It keeps getting closer and closer to my house, kind of,” Lordi said.
It has not been decided for certain what the fire will mean for children who attend the school come Monday.
But O’Malley told CBS 2’s Cindy Hsu that plans are already being made for pupils at the school to attend classes elsewhere.
“We are working currently, right now, putting together some contingency plans on local area schools, maybe some parochial schools that might vacant,” O’Malley said. “We’ve had some contact with the neighboring districts and some other facilities that might be able to house our students, and we are working through the night and through tomorrow to try to put something together to put our students back to school and rebuild this wonderful school for this great community.”
Nevertheless, families in the area were devastated.
“For us, it was great, because we could walk here,” said neighbor David Scarito. “You know, now we’re going to have to worry about busing.”
“I still know kids who go here,” added McAleer. “What are they going to say, seriously, when they wake up tomorrow morning and nothing there? It’s going to be the saddest thing in the world.”
The school building was constructed in 1963. O’Malley said the fire appears “a bit suspicious,” but he could not provide further detail into the cause.
No injuries were reported in the fire.
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