November 19, 2014

69 Girls Left Without Rooms After Fire at Adventist Boarding School

A fire broke out in the girls’ dormitory of an Adventist academy in Pennsylvania, forcing its 69 residents to spend Tuesday night in alternative housing and the school to close early for the Thanksgiving holiday.

No one was injured in the Nov. 18 fire at Pine Forge Academy, a rural boarding school that teaches grades nine through 12, most of whom are African-American.

“In all things we give thanks! God is good to us!” academy principal Nicole Falconer said in an e-mail to parents.

The blaze, which started around 9 a.m. Tuesday in a second-floor room, went to two alarms before firefighters managed to extinguish it, local WFMZ television news reported.

Students were attending classes elsewhere on campus when the fire began, and staff members in Kimbrough Hall dormitory got out safely.

FROM THE SCENE: A news report about the fire that aired on WFMZ-TV on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

Firefighters have classified the fire as an accident, saying it was sparked by a plastic laundry basket filled with clothes that was placed against a wall heater under a bed, the television report said.

The cost of the damage was unclear. Firefighters said the room took the brunt of the fire damage, while the rest of the second floor was smoke-damaged.

The students, many of whom are from out of state, will be sent home Wednesday for an early Thanksgiving break, and will only return after the dorm is repaired, said Falconer, a Yale University graduate who was appointed principal last summer.

“Well, it does affect us. But quite honestly, we are very thankful that we are preparing for the Thanksgiving home leave,” she said in televised remarks.

The academy said the repairs should be completed by Dec. 1 and appealed for financial and material donations to help cover the cost. Several students also needed support after losing everything.

“Several of the young ladies have lost all their personal belongings,” the academy said in a statement. “By order of the fire marshal none of the ladies are permitted to return to the building to retrieve items.”

Pine Forge Academy, founded in 1946, is located on 575 acres of land donated to the school’s founders by the family of Thomas Rutter, a 1700s abolitionist. Kimbrough Hall can house up to 76 young women, while the Handy Hall dormitory has space for 92 young men.

The Adventist Church’s Allegheny East Conference also uses part of the land.

The 69 female students were spending Tuesday night in nearby “econolodges" owned by the Allegheny East Conference. The units include beds, bathrooms, and hot water. The Red Cross provided bedding and emergency toiletries.

Related links

Pine Forge Academy appeal for donations on school website

Pine Forge Academy letter to parents after fire (PDF)

WFMZ-TV, Nov. 18, 2014: 
“Fire Displaces Students From Pine Forge Academy Dormitory in Douglass”

The Mercury News, Nov. 18, 2014: “Fire Reported at Pine Forge Academy”