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Light causes fire on roof of school

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

Intense heat from a misplaced floodlight sparked a small fire on the roof of Ferrell Middle School's main two-story building early Tuesday _ causing about $10,000 in damage and extending students' winter break by a couple of hours.

At 6:50 a.m., shortly before classes were to begin at the technology magnet school, fire rescue crews arrived at 4302 N 24th St. and found a small fire at the northwest corner of the building's roof.

It took about an hour for firefighters to put out the fire, which "was really more of a smoldering situation," said Tampa Fire Rescue spokesman Capt. Bill Wade. "The primary work we did was trying to tear down about a 20-foot square corner of that roof to stop the fire."

Three office employees and a custodian were on campus when the fire started, but no one was injured, school district spokesman Mark Hart said.

Fire investigators determined that a floodlight that normally hangs from the corner of the building somehow got turned in toward the asphalt roof, and the light's heat gradually caused the roofing material to heat up and burn.

The building was fumigated during the winter break, and the light might have moved during tenting, Wade said.

While fire rescue crews and investigators did their work Tuesday morning, Ferrell staffers directed bus and parent traffic away from the main drop-off loop. They ushered the school's 750 students into the gymnasium, where they stayed until 9:15 a.m., Hart said.

"They just talked and compared notes from over the winter break," Hart said. "They were very well-behaved."

For the better part of the day, students were kept away from classrooms near where the fire started because school officials wanted to make sure the classrooms weren't filled with remnants of smoke.

"We need to fire up the air conditioning," Hart said late Tuesday morning. "And if we don't smell any smoke, we're OK. Either way, we're going to carry on with school."

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