Newton County Fire Service firefighters answered an early morning call from East Newton Elementary School Friday and found a small fire in an adult restroom on the first-grade hallway.
According to Deputy Fire Chief Kevin O'Brien, the fire is believed to have been caused by an exhaust fan motor shorting out.
"It fell down on top of the commode in the bathroom area," he said. "There was quite a bit of smoke in that hallway. We had to ventilate that end of the school building with fans, and it took a little while."
O'Brien said the call came in around 7 a.m. and students were just beginning to arrive at the school.
"At first we kept them out, but then put them in the cafeteria and the gymnasium area," O'Brien said.
According to Newton County School System Director of Public Relations Sherri Davis-Viniard, students who began arriving were either kept on the bus or remained in the vehicles that brought them to the school until fire department personnel gave the all-clear.
The school's custodian noticed the smoke and called 911, Davis-Viniard said, adding that damage was limited to the restroom area only.
She said the area is surrounded by fire walls "all the way to the roof, and the ceiling was also fire rated to contain the fire. These fire barriers limited the damage to the restroom fixtures."
NCSS personnel will shortly be repairing the damage.
" ... the toilet seat was burned and the toilet was also damaged. A light fixture also had damage to the wiring as this apparently started as an electrical fire," Davis-Viniard said. "No water damage was reported and we will be replacing the exhaust fan and all of the exhaust duct work, the light fixture and the toilet. The Sheetrock on the walls and ceiling will be replaced and painted due to soot that was covering everything."
Davis-Viniard said the operation went smoothly and did not result in a disruption of the school day.
"We had excellent response from school personnel, the fire department and the sheriff's department and the students did a wonderful job," she said. "They were very well-behaved while this was going on."
O'Brien said that bathroom exhaust fans are often the cause of fire.
"Especially in a commercial building like that, people tend to leave the lights on. That fan must have been running all night and those fans are not made to run consistently. They're not designed to carry that much of a workload," he said.
The NCFS also had two house fire calls this week -- one Thursday afternoon on Gum Creek Road that apparently started in the garage and spread to the living area of the home and one Wednesday night on Sims Road, off Womack Road, that caused damage to the exterior of a home due to a chimney fire.