VASSALBORO — A tractor fire Sunday morning inside a utility garage at the Vassalboro Community School sent black smoke, soot and a foul odor billowing throughout much of the building.

Classes at the school are canceled Monday, but students are expected to return on Tuesday, AOS 92 Superintendent Eric Haley said.

Vassalboro Fire Chief Eric Rowe said the first call about the fire came in at around 10:40 a.m. Sunday. An “all hands” alert went out five minutes later.

Rowe said an all-season, four-wheel-drive tractor was being used outside and started leaking hydraulic fluid. It was moved inside to the industrial arts shop while the operator continued work shoveling snow outside, he said.

“He closed the door and figured he’d see what was wrong with it later,” Rowe said. “The alarm system went off and they automatically called the fire department, and when my firemen got there they hollered to him, ‘Your school’s on fire.’ When my first firefighters got there, they had black smoke coming out of the doors, out of the eaves and it was coming out the air vents.”

Rowe said no one was injured, but the tractor was destroyed, and there was a lot of heat and smoke damage inside the school. There was little water damage and only the tractor and some plastic buckets burned.

“It filled almost the whole school. It’s a pretty big school, but even in the kitchen area, the cafeteria, the gym, the entrance to the school – it’s all soot,” Rowe said. “They’ve got a lot of cleaning to do – anything that’s fabric, all the walls have to be wiped down, the ceilings.”

Rowe said the soot and black smoke were caused by the burning of the hydraulic fluid and the tractor tires, the vinyl seat and rubber hoses. He said the air circulation system shut down, so the smoke did not get into every section of the school. The classroom area on the south end of the school was spared, he said.

Rowe said Winslow assisted the Vassalboro Fire Department with the job of moving the dirty air and smoke out of the building using “positive pressure” from fans to push the air into a tunnel from the front of the school and out the door of the gymnasium.

Haley, superintendent of the 10 AOS 92 schools in Waterville, Winslow and Vassalboro, said students may have to make up the lost Monday later in the year.

“We got some soot and ash and other material plus some pretty awful-smelling odor that we want to have the day tomorrow to clean out the school before we had kids come in,” Haley said Sunday.

Doug Harlow can be contacted at 612-2367 or at:

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