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Lebanon School Evacuated Due to Wood Boiler Smoke

  • Students are allowed to return to class after smoke had been detected at the Lebanon Middle School on Oct. 5, 2016, in Lebanon, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, October 06, 2016

Lebanon — School administrators on Wednesday afternoon evacuated Lebanon Middle School students and staff after smoke was detected in the building around 1 p.m.

An investigation by area fire departments revealed smoke from the school’s pellet boiler heating system had drifted back into the building, said Lebanon Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Libbey.

Although smoke was inside the school, no one was in danger, Libbey said. There was no damage to the building, which was built in 2012.

Facilities Director Dana Arey said the pellet boiler has been running since last Monday and is often switched to idle after the chill of the morning wears off. The wind direction on Wednesday had wafted a stream of smoke from the boiler’s chimney toward the school’s air-intake system, causing the smoke to circulate inside the school, he said.

A similar scare happened at Lebanon Middle School last fall. The school wasn’t evacuated on that occasion but the fire department was called in, Arey said.

There is the potential for a similar situation to happen again — and again.

“This will be part of a bigger discussion,” Arey said, adding that he plans to bring it to the superintendent’s attention.

Although students aren’t in danger when the pellet smoke gets inside, the building should be evacuated because “you don’t guess” where smoke is coming from, Arey said.

Pellet boilers of this magnitude are great for heating when the weather is cold — and when it stays cold — but when temperatures fluctuate throughout the day, the boiler doesn’t react swiftly. It takes the system hours to heat up and cool down, Arey said, and when the boiler is on idle, smoke is still emitted.

Lebanon, Hanover and Hartford’s fire departments responded to the call, and Lebanon extended a ladder truck to the roof nearest Moulton Avenue.

Several other emergency vehicles were positioned between groups of teachers and students, who were staged in the parking lot.

After about an hour, everyone was let back inside the building. The school bell signaling the end of the day rang shortly after.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.