On February 14, 2013 at 1:48 PM the Fairfield Fire Department was dispatched to a report of a fire in a room at Congregation Beth El on Fairfield Woods Road. In addition to the initial 911 caller, a police officer on patrol in the area also reported seeing heavy smoke coming from the roof of the building. Initial arriving fire personnel found a natural gas fed HVAC unit on fire on the roof of the building which created a moderate smoke condition inside the building. All students were evacuated from the school and were kept in a safe location along with teachers in accordance with the schools emergency plan prior to the Fire Department’s arrival. Due to the time of day, students were dismissed directly to their parents care in front of the building without incident. Fire personnel shut off the gas to the building and controlled the fire which was contained to the roof top unit. Additional firefighters checked the inside of the building for fire extension and any possible victims remaining inside the building. Fire personnel also ensured that all religious artifacts and precious documents were protected during the fire.
Assistant Chief Scott Bisson stated, “The school did an excellent job in exercising their fire evacuation plan which allowed them to account for each child outside of the school and kept the kids safely away from the school so firefighters could do their work.”
The building was not significantly damage and was able to be occupied immediately after the fire. The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Fairfield Fire Marshall’s office but appears to be accidental in nature related to weather conditions. The flames were coming from a broken gas pipe connected to the HVAC unit on the roof. Southern Connecticut Gas was called to the scene to assist with securing the equipment. Fairfield Woods Road was shut down for approx. 20 minutes during the fire although parents were allowed to the front of the building to pick up children from school staff. Twenty people were evacuated for approximately 1 hour and there were no reported injuries. Four engines, two ladders, the Shift Commander and Safety Officer responded to this incident. The last fire unit cleared the scene at 3:02 PM