'We're devastated': Kamloops elementary school 'a complete loss' after huge fire

'We're devastated': Kamloops elementary school 'a complete loss' after huge fire

An elementary school in Kamloops, B.C., is believed to be completely destroyed after an intense fire tore through the building, hours after school was dismissed during the first week of classes. 

The fire at Parkcrest Elementary School was out of control for hours after it broke out around 5:15 p.m. PT on Thursday. 

Thick black smoke and orange flame could be seen coming from the rooftop from blocks away as firefighters worked to save the building. Smoke could be seen floating across the Thompson River more than a kilometre away.

By dusk, at least one portion of the school had collapsed.

Kamloops Fire Rescue assistant chief Steve Robinson said no one was injured in the fire and no nearby buildings were threatened. He said one member of custodial staff was in the building at the time but was able to get out safely.

Residents were asked to avoid the area as more than 30 firefighters remained on scene "for an extended period of time" working to douse the flames, Robinson said. At least four firefighters stayed on site overnight to douse hot spots.

Onlookers gathered on nearby streets and playing fields, staring at the fire as it raged through the school.

Video shows the fire near its peak about an hour after it began:

Kathleen Karpuk, chair of the board of education for the school district, said the school is destroyed. 

"We believe it's going to be a complete loss, unfortunately. We're devastated," she said.

"We knew within a very short time frame that we had probably lost the school and we know that for sure now."

Karpuk said the school's pet rabbit, named Thumper, is believed to have died in the fire.

School 'up in smoke'

The school, which Karpuk says was built in the 1960s, had more than 350 students enrolled this year. 

Standing outside the school as smoke billowed behind him, Assistant Superintendent Rob Schoen said he was in shock.

"We have an entire school year in front of everyone from our kindergarten students to our Grade 6 students. Now it is literally up in smoke," he said. 

Schoen said it's not yet known how the fire started. He said the next steps are to assess the damage and determine how to accommodate students. 

"It doesn't look good right now," he said.

In a tweet, B.C. Education Minister Rob Fleming said the fire was "terrible news."

Classes at the elementary school had resumed on Tuesday after summer break. 

In a note posted on the school's district's website Thursday evening, school administration said parents and staff have been notified that the school was "extensively damaged."

It said the school would remain closed until further notice.

Families are being asked to make alternate arrangements for supervision of their children starting Friday and into the next week.

Parents are asked to check the school's website for more updates as they become available.