First, it was the distinctive smell. A few minutes later, Secondary 2 student Liam Burridge (inset) noticed black smoke billowing from the chapel beside his first-storey classroom. Then came the fire alarm. The entire school erupted into action.
A fire had broken out in a chapel at St Joseph's Institution (Independent) at 38, Malcolm Road, before noon yesterday. "Everyone was rushing and picking up their bags," said Liam, 14. His class was then evacuated to the hall on the other side of the school, together with other Secondary 2 and 3 students.
Secondary 1, 4 and 5 students were evacuated to the canteen. Students were allowed to return to their classrooms around 12.30pm. A spokesman for SJI said that the fire started in the sacristy. This is a room in a chapel where vestments and sacred vessels are kept.
The SJI sacristy also housed the audio system, audio- visual equipment and song booklets. The building was last occupied earlier in the morning, when the school held its weekly Wednesday mass, but no one was in the chapel when the fire broke out. The Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) confirmed it received a call at 11.56am and sent out a fire engine, Red Rhino, support vehicle and two fire bikes.
No Injuries The fire was extinguished within 10 minutes with a water jet. There were no injuries. SCDF said that the cause of the fire is still under investigation.
It was the last mass the school will hold in the 25-year-old chapel for some time as the school semester will end next week on Tuesday. The school is also undergoing redevelopment, and students will report to a temporary campus at the old Bishan ITE campus for the next two years.
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