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Fire damages McLane Middle School in Brandon.

Fire fighters responded to a fire at McLane Middle School in Brandon late Friday night. (Courtesy of Hillsborough County Fire Rescue)
Published Jul. 20

A fire badly damaged parts of McLane Middle School in Brandon on Friday night.

When firefighters arrived shortly after 11 p.m., they saw flames coming from the roof and second floor of the two-story building.

Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokesman Eric Seidel said the roof collapsed and the second floor was damaged. The first floor was largely unscathed. No one was hurt.

School district spokeswoman Tanya Arja said the 8-classroom building is "a total loss."

Students, who return to school in three weeks, will work out of other parts of the campus. Structural engineers will evaluate the walls of nearby buildings for any damage, Arja said.

As of early Saturday afternoon, investigators hadn't released an official cause of the blaze, which started in the attic. Seidel said a lightning strike from the storm that rolled through Friday night may be to blame.

Firefighters took about 30 minutes to control the fire. They stayed at the scene until about 3 a.m.

While McLane has improved under principal Dina Langston, the school has had trouble with discipline and violence in the past. In the 2013-14 school year, McLane students were three times more likely to receive out-of-school suspensions than those at other Hillsborough middle schools.

The last five years have been much calmer, however, with school leaders taking steps to meet the needs of their diverse student body. McLane also boasts a successful robotics program that has remained competitive despite the school's challenges.

"This is a difficult time, but we will continue to move forward and demonstrate, both staff and students, just how Viking Strong we are," said assistant principal Troy Vasaturo.

Times staff writer Marlene Sokol contributed to this story. Contact Amanda Zhou at azhou@tampabay.com. Follow @amondozhou

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