An early morning fire heavily damaged an elementary school library in Santa Maria on Tuesday morning, destroying over 12,000 books and causing over $100,000 in damage.
County firefighters responded at 6:30 a.m. to a reported structure fire at Pine Grove Elementary, located on Rice Ranch Road. Capt. Charlie Johnson, fire department spokesman, said the school’s library was heavily engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, but the fire was extinguished quickly.
No injuries were reported by the fire department, but Liz Herbstreith, the school’s principal, said flames destroyed all of the library’s contents.
Johnson said the blaze caused $60,000 in damage to the building – and an additional $50,000-$70,000 in damage to the library’s book collection.
“That just includes books; that doesn’t count anything else like computers or reference materials,” Herbstreith said.
Johnson said fire department investigators determined that an electrical problem within the library’s walls caused the fire.
After the fire was put out, Johnson said, school staff made efforts to ensure the safety of the students and to not disrupt the rest of the school day.
“The school’s library was cordoned off from the students and classes were held as normal,” Johnson said.
Herbstreith said the Mid-State Bank and Trust in Santa Maria has started a Pine Grove Fund to collect donations for the library’s reconstruction.
“The Pine Grove community has definitely come together,” Herbstreith said. “Parents and community members have definitely helped out, offering money and books.”
She said students were scheduled to take the annual Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) exam Wednesday morning, and the fire did not distract the students.
“We had to keep our focus,” Herbstreith said. “The teachers handled it professionally.”
The school’s staff and students dealt with the tragedy well, Herbstreith said.
“The school has bounced back,” she said. “[The students] are kind of moving on.”