North Coast Current

Investigation, cleanup underway after Encinitas middle school fire

Oak Crest campus administration building destroyed for the second time in 36 years

Michele Leivas

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Investigators are still determining the cause of a fire that swept through the administration building at Oak Crest Middle School in Encinitas on Oct. 29.

An initial insurance estimate sets the damage at $1.3 million, according to Eric Dill, San Dieguito Union High School District interim superintendent. It’s the second such fire in the administration building in 36 years, Oak Crest campus records show.

Encinitas Fire Marshal Anita Pupping said the Oct. 29 fire was reported at 3:41 a.m. Firefighters were able to contain the flames within an hour of arriving on the scene. Pupping added that no injuries were reported in the process of extinguishing the fire.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Arson/Bomb Squad is leading the investigation, Pupping said. Oak Crest Principal Ben Taylor stated in an email that, as of Nov. 4, the cause of the fire is still unknown.

The east end of Oak Crest Middle School's burned administration building is shown Nov. 4. (North Coast Current photo)

The east end of Oak Crest Middle School’s burned administration building is shown Nov. 4. (North Coast Current photo)

Sgt. Greg Hampton of the Arson/Bomb Squad released a statement regarding the investigation’s progress, in which he said, “We are not in a position to classify the fire at this time. The lab results will tell us if an accelerant was used or not. We are not looking for any suspects at this time and there have been no arrests.”

In his statement, Hampton also encouraged anyone with information on the fire to contact Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477 or the Sheriff’s Communication Center at 858-565-5200.

Encinitas fire officials released the building, which housed offices belonging to the principal and counselors, back to the school district by Saturday afternoon. After an initial walkthrough, Taylor said, the damage was extensive: The entire building suffered damage in one way or another, either by fire, smoke or water.

“From what we can gather, everything is ruined,” he said. “The eastern side of the building is heavily damaged from fire and water; the mid part of the building is damaged from smoke, some water and foam that the fire department uses to cool materials; and then the western end of the building, where my office was, is heavily damaged from smoke.”

Oak Crest Middle School's administration building — a replacement structure under construction after a 1980 fire — is shown in the background of this 1981 Oak Log yearbook picture. (Photo courtesy of Oak Crest Middle School)

Oak Crest Middle School’s administration building — a replacement structure under construction after a 1980 fire — is shown in the background of this 1981 Oak Log yearbook picture. (Photo courtesy of Oak Crest Middle School)

Taylor said the primary concern at the moment is salvaging files and paperwork from the offices. His staff members are working in portable work stations provided by a fire response company to dry, recopy, scan and digitize all salvageable files, but, he added, “We don’t know at this point what the extent of the loss is.”

Oak Crest had started moving toward digital files well before the recovery process spurred by the fire. Taylor explained that the district had already moved to Google Docs for “many, many of the internal things we do.” Fortunately, he stated, many of the students’ cumulative records — the files that follow each individual student from kindergarten through 12th grade, or in the case of San Dieguito Union High School District, grades seven through 12 — are recoverable.

“We receive hard copies (of the cumulative files) and we are reaching out to some of the elementary districts that feed into our school,” Taylor said. “If we need information on a specific kid and it’s not one of the files we were able to save, we would reach out to the elementary district.”

Dill stated the school’s insurance company has released an initial estimate of repairs, totaling $1.3 million, which would cover all costs of reconstruction as well as the installation of temporary offices.

Oak Crest Middle School's original administration building — built in 1957 — is shown in this 1981 Oak Log yearbook picture (circa late 1970s). (Photo courtesy of Oak Crest Middle School)

Oak Crest Middle School’s original administration building — built in 1957 — is shown in this 1981 Oak Log yearbook picture (circa late 1970s). (Photo courtesy of Oak Crest Middle School)

All employees whose offices were housed in the building have already been moved to temporary workspaces elsewhere on campus. Dill said it will be early 2017 before “office-type trailers” will be installed at the school for more permanent work stations while construction is underway for the new administration building.

“The silver lining in all of this is that we had planned on doing a major remodel of the building in two years,” Dill added. “So now what we are going to do is just accelerate that project and use insurance money as much as possible for the reconstruction, and any (enhancements) that we would have done above and beyond what was there, our construction bond dollars will cover that difference.”

Several San Dieguito district schools are already undergoing extensive construction and renovations funded by the district’s Proposition AA bonds. According to Dill, none of these projects will be affected by the reconstruction now needed at Oak Crest.

The Oct. 29 fire is the second such incident to hit the building at the same location on campus, Oak Crest records show.

On March 23, 1980, electrical wiring sparked a fire that destroyed Oak Crest’s original administration building, which was built with the rest of the campus in 1957, according to the 1981 Oak Log yearbook. The replacement building, now also destroyed, opened in mid-1981.

Michele Leivas is a San Diego freelance writer. North Coast Current Editorial Director Roman S. Koenig contributed to this report.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
1 Comment

One Response to “Investigation, cleanup underway after Encinitas middle school fire”

  1. Catherinem Leonard Cook on November 4th, 2016 11:52 pm

    Im hoping curriculum will continue, and resoloution will come quickly.

The North Coast Current provides this Comments feature as a way for readers to share viewpoints on stories and issues. The Comments window is open for seven days after a story is published. The Current welcomes letters to the editor on older stories. To submit a letter online, go to www.northcoastcurrent.com/letters, or email them to letters@northcoastcurrent.com. The North Coast Current cares about fostering constructive, engaging community discussions. Therefore, the Current moderates comments. Editors reserve the right to accept or reject comments as they see fit. Comments must be civil and constructive regardless of political or religious leanings, and must be specific to the story being commented about. Comments containing threats will be rejected without exception, and may be forwarded to law enforcement depending on the nature and severity of the threat. As published material accessible to the public, the North Coast Current will occasionally republish posted comments in the Dialogue section of its printed editions. By commenting here, as with submitting letters to the editor, readers grant the right to publish comments in the North Coast Current print edition.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Left
Navigate Right
News online for Encinitas, Calif.
Investigation, cleanup underway after Encinitas middle school fire