Investigators search for cause of fire at Racine school

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RACINE (WITI) -- Fire investigators have yet to determine the cause of a fire at Racine's Mitchell Elementary School that happened early Thursday, February 27th.

According to officials, police initially responded to the scene after they received a call regarding a burglar alarm. Upon arrival, police found smoke in the building and notified the fire department.

When fire crews arrived on scene, they discovered smoke coming from the roof of the building and began an interior attack. However, they were forced to evacuate due to a roof collapse. The fire was declared under control at 4:30 a.m.

"Within 15 minutes we had all the city resources from the City of Racine committed to the fire," said Fire Chief Steve Hansen. "The area is totally destroyed. It has collapsed down onto itself.

Investigators say the walls of the school gym are too unstable to access the area of origin on the fire. Heavy equipment may have to be called in to excavate the scene.

"They were aggressive in that they were able to stop the fire from going into the hallway and extending north and south into the elementary school or the junior high sections of the school," said Hansen.

The fire forced the closure of Mitchell Elementary and Mitchell Middle School on Thursday. Racine Unified officials are now meeting to decide on a plan of action to resume classes.

"We'll lease some space or something. We need to make sure our kids get back to school as soon as possible," said Superintendent Dr. Loli Haws.

Parents are already asking questions, concerned with their children's education and well-being.

"Where are they going to go to school? Are they coming back to Mitchell? What the game plan is? I would hope and expect that no rash decisions are made and make sure they are still going to get the best education they can get," said one parent.

The following are three important updates regarding the fire at Mitchell Elementary School:

  1. Mitchell Elementary and Mitchell Middle Schools will remain closed tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 28.
  2. Racine Unified (and Arbor Management) will provide school breakfast and lunch to Mitchell Elementary and Middle School students at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer (2417 Drexel Ave.) tomorrow and continuing until students are back in school. Breakfast will be served from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and lunch will be served from 11 a.m. until noon. All Mitchell students are welcome and will not be charged for breakfast or lunch.
  3. Friday evening (Feb. 28) RUSD and Mitchell school staff will hold an informational meeting for Mitchell Elementary and Mitchell Middle School families at Park High School (1901 12th St.) from 4:30 – 5:30 p.m. We encourage all Mitchell families to attend.


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