Part of Auto Shop at a Visalia High School Damaged by Fire

VISALIA, Calif. - Mount Whitney High School in Visalia is till cleaning up following a huge fire that broke out in it’s auto-shop classroom on Monday night. The Visalia Fire Department said there’s more than two million dollars worrth of estimated damage.

Since the fire occurred around 7pm on Monday night, there was no one inside of the building. No one was even in the vicinity. VFD managed to contain the fire to only one part of the building, school officials are praising the fire crew’s swift action.

Principal Rick Hamilton said on Tuesday, "Flames were, were raging. For me, a good 20 to 30 feet above the structure, so they were really raging."

Hamilton reflected on the damage Tuesday morning. He said the fire originated in the office of this building, which serves as the school’s auto-shop.

"The classroom is a total loss, all that burned, the desks are melted, the office is a total loss and the storage room is a total loss," stated Hamilton.

He said a fire alarm tipped off VFD. Fire Station 51 is just a few minutes away. Battalion Chief Danny Wristen said 40 firefighters responded to the scene. But there were challenges.

Wristen commented, "Access. It was located in the middle of the campus itself, so getting the right resources and the right place took us a while to do."

He said the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The school remained open on Tuesday, and the classrooms near the auto-shop will re-open on Wednesday. The actual auto-mechanic shop where students work on cars was not burned, but it will stay closed until next school year.

"Very lucky that the fire occurred when it did, no students there, so we’re very fortunate," ended Wristen.

Hamilton said nearly 130 students auto-shop students will be affected. They will have to move classrooms and resume their car projects outside.

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