Fargo, ND High School Fire, Apr 1966

High School Before the Fire


Fargo, N. D. (AP) -- Plans for running classes in double shifts at Fargo North High School were being prepared today, in the wake of a fire which destroyed the upper story of Fargo Central High Tuesday.
School Supt. H. G. VASEY and Business Manager CLARENCE B. WRIGGS said damages ranged between $700,000 and $1 million, but added the building was a total loss as far as a high school is concerned.
They said the structure was still intact, and could conceivably be repaired for some other purpose. State Fire Marchal VANCE ARNESON was expected to make an investigation today.
Six firemen remained on duty overnight, playing water on stubborn remnants of the fire which broke out at 12:16 p.m. -- during the lunch hour.
It took more than four hours to bring the flames under control.
Smoke, pushed by northerly winds up to 30 miles an hour, covered much of the residential area south of the school.
There were no injuries.
Police evacuated one elderly couple whose home is across the street from the block-square-brick-faced school on the southwest edge of the city's business district.
Supt. VASEY said replacement costs for the 45-year-old building would range from $2 million to $2.5 million. The structure and its contents were insured for $1,133,775.
The fire apparently started between the roof and the ceiling over the auditorium, located in the center of the building and surrounded by corridors and classrooms.
Fire Chief FRED SAEFKE said cause of the blaze was not known.
TOM MANLEY, a teacher who was conducting a study hall with about 50 students in the auditorium, said he heard popping noises and saw flames near the ceiling. He ordered the students to leave the buildnig.
Principal OTTO BERNHOFT used the school's public address system to tell students the fire drill was not a practice -- the school was on fire. The evacuation was orderly.
The only items removed from the building included a dozen filing cabinets containing permanent records. Students and teachers left their coats and personal belongings. When the building was inspected after the fire, papers and open books remained on desks.
All eight units of the city's fire fighting equipment were on hand, along with 76 firemen, including off-duty firefighters.

Winona Daily News Minnesota 1966-04-21


Blame misplaced

My brother was entering FCHS on a beautiful morning, and had the misfortune to say "Wouldn't it be great if the school burned down today?" Is there a kid anywhere who hasn't felt that way? One had the misfortune to blurt it out.

And one of his friends heard him say it!

There followed 3-4 days of Intensive and sometimes hostile interrogation, in which detectives all but blamed him for setting the fire.

As is turned out, it started in the roof over the auditorium.