'Everyone is in shock': Kamloops elementary school destroyed in massive fire

WATCH: Just days into the new school year, a fire has destroyed a Kamloops elementary school that has stood in the community for decades. As Aaron McArthur reports, officials are now scrambling to relocate hundreds of students.

Fire gutted a longstanding elementary school in Kamloops Thursday afternoon, just days into the start of the new school year.

Witnesses began reporting flames and thick smoke coming from Parkcrest Elementary just after 5 p.m.

Kamloops Fire Rescue said the fire was quickly upgraded to a two-alarm call, bringing two dozen firefighters to the scene to fight the fire defensively.

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The fire was expected to burn through the night and into Friday morning, fire officials added.

No one was injured in the fire, school staff and fire officials have confirmed.

The cause of the fire is not yet known.

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School District 73 Assistant Supt. for elementary schools Rob Schoen said it’s clear from the damage already reported that students will need to be relocated to a new school.

“We know this is not going to be a short-term solution,” he said. “We are going to have to come up with a plan that is going to allow us to move forward for an extended period of time.”

Schoen said officials would begin planning where the students will go “and how to get them there” as soon as Thursday night.

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That plan could include renting alternate facilities, he said, as most other schools in the city are at capacity.

In the meantime, Schoen said the destruction of the school was heartbreaking for staff.

“Right now they’re devastated,” he said. “Everyone from young teachers to 30-year veterans are looking at their entire careers worth of work, their entire careers worth of materials literally going up in smoke.

“To see a school like Parkcrest burning, they are without words.”

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Several neighbours and other residents watched as the flames tore through the building, which has been standing in the community for decades.

Many of the onlookers said they were once students at the school, crying as they came to grips with its loss.

“I went there, my dad went there, my aunt went there, my grandma went there, my siblings went there and my two youngest siblings still go there,” Shanelle Hamilton said. “They were at school there today.”

Christin Exelby held onto her daughter as she expressed hope a solution will be found for the students.

“It was our first day back today,” she said. “It’s really, really sad, especially when you see all the teachers and all the work they’ve put into everything to start the school year. It’s not the way to start it.”

Parents are being asked to monitor the school’s website for updates.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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