Roasting error sparks Bend HS oven fire, evacuation

Fiberglass lunch tray used- not metal baking sheet

Fire starts in cooking class oven

BEND, Ore. - More than peppers roasted in a gas oven at Bend Senior High School on Tuesday afternoon -- and a student's use of a fiberglass cafeteria tray, instead of a metal baking sheet, sparked a fire that prompted firefighters to be called and the school evacuated.

Bend firefighters responded around 1:30 p.m. to the reported fire in the culinary classroom at the school on Northeast Sixth Street, Battalion Chief Dave Howe said. They arrived to find the fire was out, but significant smoke in the classroom that had held 30 to 35 students. 

Fire crews used large fans to remove the smoke and instructed students and the teacher, Molly Ziegler, how to clean all of the belongings as they investigated the cause and found it to be that fiberglass cafeteria tray.

The oven's heat brought the tray to its ignition temperature -- and since the oven door was propped open, black smoke, then flames came from it, Howe said.

As the teacher directed students out of the classroom, a passing Oregon State Police trooper, in the building for another class, grabbed an extinguisher and put out the fire.

There was no apparent damage to the structure, but smoke damage to the room and contents, and one no longer usable oven. Losses to contents were estimated at $3,500, and insured.

Howe said "school staff did an extraordinary job of managing the students and were able to evacuate the entire complex in a timely and orderly fashion."

"The Bend Fire Department appreciates the effort that both staff and students have taken to complete fire drills," Howe wrote in a news release. "The practice definitely paid off today."

The battalion chief also reminded people to "pay attention to the details when cooking or working around sources of combustion. Little mistakes can make a big difference, so always double-check your work around sources of flame or heat."

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