WEST NEWBURY - Two fires at the Pentucket Regional Middle/High School building project earlier this month were not deliberately set, according to a State Fire Marshal's Office statement released Friday morning.
The first fire, which took place on Aug. 6, was ruled accidental when investigators determined sparks from a grinder used in the construction process ignited nearby adhesive.
Two days later, West Newbury firefighters responded to the school campus at about 3:45 p.m. for a report of smoke showing from the roof. Upon arrival, firefighters found smoke showing from the roof in the rear of the construction site. A first alarm response was requested, followed minutes later by a second alarm response, sending in mutual aid units from several area communities to the scene. The fire was knocked down in a matter of minutes by fire crews, and no injuries were reported.
Mutual aid was provided by the Georgetown, Groveland, Merrimac, Newbury and Newburyport fire departments. Atlantic Ambulance also responded to the scene.
The joint investigation by the West Newbury Fire Department and the State Police Fire & Explosion Investigation Unit, assigned to the State Fire Marshal’s office, assisted by the State Police Crime Scene Services Section, identified potential causes, including electrical wiring and smoking materials, that could not be ruled out entirely.
While there was no evidence that the fire was intentionally set, investigators were unable to eliminate all but one possible causes of a fire. As a result, the cause was officially classified as "undetermined," according to the State Fire Marshal's Office.
The $146.2 million school building project began in spring 2020 and is expected to be completed by next spring. The project was approved by the district towns of Groveland, Merrimac and West Newbury in spring 2019. The Massachusetts School Building Authority is funding up to $52.7 million of the project. Classes are expected to start there in fall 2022.