October 17, 2017 – Students at Nevada City School of the Arts got an unanticipated break last week while the Lobo fire threatened the Transitional Kindergarten through 8th Charter School, located on Bitney Springs Road.
Several acres of the campus were scorched, and were it not for the school’s maintenance crew and first responders from local fire departments, the buildings would likely have been destroyed.
“I’ve been anticipating something such as this for 15 years” said Ian MacMillen, NCSA’s facility and maintenance manager.
MacMillen and his wife live in a house on campus and were the first to battle the fire along with co-worker Al Kirchner. A fire break had been established years ago and helped keep the flames at bay, but the ferocity of the winds pushed the fire beyond the break, heading toward the school buildings.
Cal Fire air support laid retardant between the hillside and the buildings, dozers were used to establish more break lines, hand crews and fire trucks were deployed and the combined efforts kept the fire within 100 feet of the school’s upper campus buildings. All responders kept vigil for several days as hot spots continued to break out.
“To say that we are grateful would be an understatement” said Holly Pettitt of her employees and the first responders. “They truly are heroes and we are delighted to thank them and celebrate them this morning.”
Students, parents, faculty and staff gathered outside on Monday morning to thank and honor NCSA’s employees as well as representatives from the Penn Valley Fire Department. Also honored were Cal Fire Dispatcher Captain Scott Eckman, and first responder Justin Martin of the Sheriff’s department in recognition of the many critical people involved in a crisis of this magnitude, and Pascale Fusshoeller of YubaNet for the tireless work of keeping the community informed.
Although no buildings were harmed, the on-site water treatment facility suffered significant damage. Repair work began on Thursday and continued through the weekend to get the system back on-line. Nevada City School of the Arts does not take the October break like most other schools in Nevada County. “Last week was enough of a break, we need to get our kids back into the classroom” said Director Pettitt.
The morning assembly, filled with homemade signs, flowers and songs, was a welcome affirmation that the beloved school survived, after a close call during a frightful week.