Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

July 11, 2013

Faulty water cooler blamed for school fire

By Dustin Luca

---- — A problematic water cooler caused an overnight fire at West Elementary School on Beacon Street on Friday, July 5, resulting in about $50,000 in damage.

The fire, called in through school alarms at 4:14 a.m., started with a drinking water cooler manufactured by EBCO Manufacturing Co.

The fire was knocked down by firefighters in about 10 minutes, fire Chief Mike Mansfield said, but not before causing heat and smoke damage to the walls, ceiling and lighting fixtures. Copiers and furniture were also damaged, Mansfield said. The $50,000 estimate doesn’t include replacing those items.

While the fire was contained to one room, there was smoke damage in four to six adjacent rooms as well, he said.

Officials are looking deeper into problems with the brand of water coolers after a similar fire in 2009 sent crews to Phillips Academy’s Draper Hall. In that fire, a motor in the water cooler malfunctioned, causing a small fire that damaged the cooler and a nearby wall.

The manufacturer and model of the water cooler involved in the Phillips fire are identical to the one in West Elementary, Mansfield said.

“The School Department has issued a memorandum to have all the coolers throughout the entire school system checked to see if they are the same model number,” Mansfield said.

The department is also following up with the state fire marshal’s office and making an inquiry with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission “to see if there has been any similar cases that have occurred,” Mansfield said.