Classes canceled at St. Pete High School due to fire

9:13 AM, Aug 31, 2012   |    comments
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St. Petersburg, Florida -- A fire has seriously damaged the auditorium of historic St. Pete High, canceling classes Friday.

A huge hole had already burned through the roof of the auditorium when firefighters answered an automatic alarm at St. Petersburg High School at 4 a.m. Friday.

Fire was trying to spread through the nearby attic space. So firefighters called for plenty of help and soaked the at-risk area from above and below.

PHOTOS: Fire cancels classes at St. Petersburg High School

That wasn't the first time fire crews had come to St. Petersburg High early Friday morning.

Someone driving by reported that they saw a fire on the school's roof around midnight.

Firefighters came out and found no flames. But roofers were working. They often work during those early hours, when school is closed and the air is cool.

Investigators have determined, in their words, "that the work being done by the roofing company overnight did contribute to the start of this fire."

"They were up there patching the area exactly where we ended up finding the fire," said St. Petersburg Fire & Rescue spokesman Lt. Joel Granata. "They were actively putting tar up there, using a hot torch."

The school building goes back to 1926. And for many of those years, the auditorium has housed the Move Up Assembly. It's an important tradition, where seniors advance up onto the stage.

We talked with a brand new senior who's heartbroken.

Shakeria Denton is afraid she won't get to be part of that ceremony this year because of the damage, which is expected to total more than a million dollars.

Fire crews had to cut power and pour immense amounts of water into the school, which is why classes were canceled for Friday.

Despite that, school will be open on Tuesday, after the Labor Day holiday.

And the St. Pete football home opener will go on as planned Friday night. St. Pete's Green Devils take on Gibbs High School at 7:30 p.m.

A member of the school community sent us an email saying students plan to circle the field after the game and sing St. Pete High's alma mater in support of the school.

St. Petersburg Fire Rescue

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