Crews begin demolishing Crestline Elementary site (with video)

3-alarm fire destroyed school in February

By Tyler Graf, Columbian county government reporter

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Find complete coverage of the Feb. 3 that destroyed Crestline Elementary School, including photos, video and stories at columbian.com/news/crestline-fire

Demolition of Crestline Elementary began Friday, signaling a new phase for the school, destroyed February in a three-alarm fire.

Clearing the charred site is the next step in what promises to be an arduous process for the Evergreen school district, which wants to clear the site, collect an insurance claim and build a new school in short order.

First things first: Thompson Bros. Excavating of Vancouver got started Friday clearing what's expected to be 1,200 cubic yards — or 800 tons — of debris from the property. Contractors used heavy

machinery to move rubble of the burnt-down school — twisted metal, copper wiring and bricks — into piles more than 20 feet high.

The rest was sorted into bins to be transported for recycling.

Joe Thompson, vice president of Thompson Bros., said the work will allow structural engineers hired by the district's insurance company to take a closer look at the school's foundation.

"At this point, we're protecting the floor until the insurance company comes back and does another inspection," Thompson said.

The school's gymnasium and kitchen are all that remain standing, so they'll be the focal points of the inspection.

That inspection could ultimately play a role in determining how much the district receives from an insurance claim. The district has yet to put a price tag on what it would need to build a new school.

District officials say they also want to completely clear the site to ensure no one breaks into the property and is injured. The district is hiring a security guard to patrol the property at night and on the weekends.

Plans call for building a new school at the same location, said Patrick O'Day, project manager for the school district. Aside from that, the school has no timeline for moving forward.

"Right now, I think we're moving in the right direction with the school," O'Day said. "But there's not enough information to have any sort of schedule for the future."

The district would like to move forward with building a new school as early as midsummer, O'Day said, but that could get pushed back.

Meanwhile, investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and local agencies continue to work on pinpointing the cause of the blaze.

The district has not received an update about the investigation into the cause of the fire, O'Day said.

Tyler Graf: 360-735-4517; tyler.graf@columbian.com.