On Friday May 11th three kids at Woodburn High School played around with some hand sanitizer and a lighter — apparently trying to replicate the act on a popular YouTube video. But unlike in the video, the flames quickly got out of control. The 15-year-olds tried using paper towels to smother the flames, but the fire grew bigger, so they threw the flaming mass into a closet where the fire grow even faster. By the time the janitor arrived with a fire extinguisher it was too late. No one was hurt, but the fire left major damage at the school — especially the wood and metal shop, band room, choir room, and storage facilities.
All the high school students have been out of class since the fire and now administrators are busy figuring out how to get them everything they need to finish off the year. Seniors return to a separate building at the school on Monday to finish up anything they need to graduate (like senior projects), but they won’t attend any more formal classes. Students in other grades will likely return the week after, but plans are still being formalized. Much of the actual high school building will not be in operation for the rest of the academic year.
Meanwhile community members are donating food and money and time to help the kids. Insurance will cover the cost of replacing all the main supplies. But it’s the volunteers who are providing everything else that students need right now — from new backpacks to decorations for the prom. Yes, the senior prom is this weekend, but with all this community support it is now expected to be the biggest in Woodburn history.
However, there are a couple of kids who won’t make it. The three fifteen year-old boys who played with the hand sanitizer that caused the fire were all charged under Measure 11 with arson in the first degree, reckless burning, and reckless endangerment. They each face a minimum of seven-and-a-half years in prison. Two of the boys sit in prison now. A third has been released on $50,000 bail.
Here’s a few photos from our show about life at Woodburn High School after the fire. Learn more about Woodburn from the we spent there for Our Town:
Are you in Woodburn? How has the fire affected you?
What do you think of the Measure 11 charges? Does the punishment fit the crime?
Editor’s Note: This show will broadcast live from Woodburn High School. If you are at the school please find us and join in the conversation!