For Immediate Release - November 16, 2016

Lawrence’s Bruce School Fire Undetermined, Electrical Cause Likely

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey and Acting Lawrence Fire Chief John McInnis announced that while the cause of yesterday’s fire at the Bruce Middle School on Butler Street in Lawrence will remain officially undetermined, it is most likely an electrical fire.  The estimated loss is $300,000.

The fire originated in classroom #27 on the second floor of the building. In the area where the fire started was a power strip that had several items plugged into it and plastic storage bins. Investigators believe the most likely cause of the fire was a failure of the power strip or one of the items plugged into it. The strip itself is now encased in a large amount of plastic that melted during the fire. It is now nearly impossible to access it in order to be able to conduct forensic testing that would determine with 100% certainty that it caused the fire. Therefore, the fire will remain officially undetermined.

Acting Chief McInnis said, “I am so proud of the students and staff of the Bruce School for evacuating everyone so quickly. Fire drills often become mundane and repetitive, but in a real fire you often need to use a second way out and staff did that to move the students away from the smoke.” No children or staff was injured in the fire. One firefighter suffered a minor injury.

State Fire Marshal Ostroskey said, “A school fire impacts the entire community. Closing a school even for a short period of time disrupts the lives of so many. The building is a focal point not only during school hours but for activities after school and on weekends.”

The fire was jointly investigated by the Lawrence Fire and Police Departments and State Police assigned to the Office of the State Fire Marshal. Assistance was received from the Lawrence electrical inspector.

A code compliance investigation is ongoing into the performance of the fire alarm system during the incident. The school does not have fire sprinklers.

147 Fires in Schools in 2015
In 2015, 147 school fires in the state were reported to the Massachusetts Fire Incident Reporting System (MFIRS). These fires caused no injuries and an estimated $6.8 M in damage, most of which was in a single fire. The majority of school fires are discovered early and kept small. Cooking, indoor rubbish fires, intentionally set fires and juvenile set fires are the leading causes of school fires.