Flare cause chaos
Memorial High School evacuated after smoke signal canister set off in building
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.
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.