PORTLAND -- A fire broke out Wednesday morning in a classroom at Northwest Portland's Chapman Elementary School.
The flames were caused by oily rags that self-combusted, according to the Portland Fire Bureau. The Portland School District announced that school will open as scheduled next week.
The school is best known nationally as the annual site of Vaux's Swifts roosting in the chimney. Thousands of them fly around the school, diving into the chimney.
Fire crews quickly put out flames on the second story of Chapman Elementary Wednesday morning. Flames were confined to one room.
The alarm came in at 6:10 a.m., one of the calls from a neighbor who saw the fire.
A custodian pulled an alarm after a 5th-grade teacher Kevin Bush alerted him to the flames.
"When I came in, I pulled up and saw an orange glow from my neighbor's classroom. I went in and looked in her classroom door and saw flames," Bush said. "We'll pull together and help her out as much as we can and make sure her kiddos get back to their classroom and start the school year off right."
The school has no sprinkler system. But school officials said that's not as dangerous or unusual as it may sound, since most alarm systems link directly to the fire department.
On Wednesday, Chapman principal Scott Choate sent a letter to staff and families ensuring them school will still be back in session Sept. 4.
A check of other schools in the district found that only eight schools have full sprinkler systems but 54 have partial systems. That leaves 23 schools, including Chapman, without fire sprinklers. However, every school in the district does have working smoke detectors and alarm systems.
As for the swifts, experts said it's unlikely to classroom fire will change their annual roosting. The event draws thousands to the school grounds at dusk in early September, many with picnic baskets and blankets. Hawks will sometimes pick-off the smaller birds, drawing vocal, mixed reactions from the crowd.
(Photo at left from the Audubon Society of Portland website.)