Flare cause chaos

Me­mo­rial High School evac­u­ated af­ter smoke sig­nal can­is­ter set off in build­ing

The Queens County Advance - - CLASSIFIEDS - BY JEREMY FRASER

Thomas Han­cock didn’t know what to ex­pect when the fire alarm went off at Me­mo­rial High School in Syd­ney Mines, Thurs­day morn­ing.

Han­cock, a Grade 11 stu­dent at the school, was in car­pen­try class when stu­dents and staff were evac­u­ated af­ter some­one set off a smoke sig­nal can­is­ter inside the build­ing, send­ing or­ange smoke through the hall­ways.

“I was wor­ried about my fel­low stu­dents be­cause I knew there was class­rooms where it was let off — I thought some­body was go­ing to get hurt,” said Han­cock.

Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice and the Syd­ney Mines Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment were called to the high school around 10:30 a.m. to an­swer a re­port of a fire alarm. Af­ter a search of the build­ing, fire­fight­ers lo­cated a smoke sig­nal can­is­ter un­der­neath a stair­way. No one was hurt.

Han­cock was on the other side of the build­ing at the time of the in­ci­dent, but said he had friends in class­rooms near the lo­ca­tion.

“I was con­cerned for my girl­friend and friends be­cause I knew some of my friends were in the area,” said Han­cock, wear­ing his brown carpenter over­alls.

“There was or­ange smoke in the big win­dow (fac­ing Me­mo­rial Drive) and then it went away; I’m as­sum­ing it was sucked out by some­thing.”

Thurs­day’s in­ci­dent wasn’t the first on the North­side this week.

On Mon­day, a smoke flare was set off inside the Wal­mart in North Syd­ney, caus­ing the store as well as parts of the North Syd­ney Mall to be evac­u­ated. No one was hurt.

Wal­mart re­mained closed on Thurs­day and com­pany of­fi­cials told the Cape Bre­ton Post Tues­day there was no time­line for re­open­ing.

There was also an un­con­firmed re­port of a third flare in­ci­dent near the Lawrence Mans­field Me­mo­rial Skate Park on Wed­nes­day. Po­lice could not be reached for Mem­bers of the Syd­ney Mines Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment stand out­side Me­mo­rial High School, Thurs­day, af­ter re­spond­ing to the school af­ter a

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con­fir­ma­tion of the re­port.

Mark Mac­far­lene, a Grade 10 stu­dent, was in class near the in­ci­dent. He re­calls walk­ing out of class and see­ing the hall full of smoke.

“I didn’t know what was go­ing on,” said Mac­far­lene. “Peo­ple were sort of pan­ick­ing, no­body had their jack­ets on when we were evac­u­ated.”

The in­ci­dent on Thurs­day caused some panic among stu­dents at the high school. The Cape Bre­ton-vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board can­celled classes for the re­main­der of the day as a pre­cau­tion.

“Peo­ple were call­ing and tex­ting their par­ents, try­ing to fig­ure out drives home,” said Jenna-lee Gor­don, a Grade 11 stu­dent. “It makes you ner­vous, think­ing it could have been some­thing more se­ri­ous.”

Once classes were of­fi­cially can­celled, buses be­gan ar­riv­ing to trans­port stu­dents home. Ac­cord­ing to a school of­fi­cial at the scene scene, 16 buses were called to Me­mo­rial to pick up stu­dents.

“It could be some peo­ple just want­ing to get off school, just kids be­ing stupid, prob­a­bly,” said Han­cock, when asked why some­one would set off a flare inside a school.

“It’s not very good, it’s pretty se­ri­ous, but at least it’s not a real bomb or any­thing. It would be worse if it was a real bomb in one of the mid­dle hall­ways be­cause then it would col­lapse the en­tire build­ing.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Cape Bre­ton­vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board, Me­mo­rial High School houses ap­prox­i­mately 964 stu­dents and 92 staff.

As part of an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the smoke flare in­ci­dents on the North­side, Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice be­lieve the flares were stolen from a com­mer­cial prop­erty in North Syd­ney.

Po­lice re­ceived in­for­ma­tion that led them to a prop­erty where they lo­cated a large num­ber of marine-use emer­gency flares in stor­age. Po­lice are mak­ing ar­range­ments to have them re­moved and de­stroyed.

Po­lice are not sure how many flares were taken from the prop­erty. They cau­tion res­i­dents about the pos­si­bil­ity that there may still be some cir­cu­lat­ing in the com­mu­nity.

Ac­cord­ing to po­lice, if the flares are ac­tive, they emit a high amount of heat that could cause a fire or se­ri­ous in­jury, as well as a sig­nif­i­cant amount of smoke.

If res­i­dents see an ac­tive flare, po­lice ad­vise to leave it where it is and con­tact them im­me­di­ately in order for it to be con­tained and dis­posed of prop­erly and safely.

Po­lice con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate the in­ci­dents from both Me­mo­rial High School and Wal­mart. Any­one with in­for­ma­tion that can help iden­tify the per­sons re­spon­si­ble for light­ing the flares is asked to con­tact po­lice at 902-563-5151 or anony­mously through Crime Stop­pers.

The Cape Bre­ton-vic­to­ria Re­gional School Board di­rected all ques­tions about the in­ci­dent to the Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice.

When asked if classes would re­sume at Me­mo­rial High School on Fri­day, Michelle Macleod, spokesper­son for the school board, said of­fi­cials were as­sess­ing the sit­u­a­tion and would ad­vise of any clo­sure Thurs­day evening.

JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRE­TON POST

Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Po­lice and the Syd­ney Mines Vol­un­teer Fire Depart­ment were called to Me­mo­rial High School in Syd­ney Mines af­ter a smoke sig­nal can­is­ter was set off inside the build­ing Thurs­day morn­ing. Stu­dents and staff were evac­u­ated and classes were can­celled for the re­main­der of the day.

JEREMY FRASER/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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