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Couch fire forces evacuation of Poulsbo Elementary

Poulsbo Elementary School students were evacuated because of a fire in the library Wednesday, and walked to Poulsbo Middle School to finish out the day. - Megan Stephenson / Herald
Poulsbo Elementary School students were evacuated because of a fire in the library Wednesday, and walked to Poulsbo Middle School to finish out the day.
— image credit: Megan Stephenson / Herald

POULSBO — Poulsbo Elementary School was evacuated Wednesday for the second time in two days, after a student noticed a couch in the school's library was on fire.

Poulsbo Fire and Poulsbo Police departments were dispatched at 12:10 p.m. Students were evacuated to the nearby sports field until they went to Poulsbo Middle School at about 12:30 p.m.

Library Assistant Mary Payne said she was gathering the students in the library to go to lunch when a student alerted her to the fire. She said the back of the couch was on fire and flames were visible. The students "were out within seconds," she said. Payne said she called for a fire extinguisher, thinking she could keep the fire under control. Another staff member also had a garbage can full of water. However, staff soon realized they could not fight the fire. The sprinkler system went off in the library.

"[The students] had a great practice run yesterday," Payne said. The school evacuated near the end of the school day Tuesday when a fire was reported in a garbage can in a boys' bathroom. Poulsbo Fire crews were dispatched at 3:26 p.m. The cause of that fire is still unknown.

If parents want to pick their children up early, or at the normal release time, they are asked to do so from Poulsbo Middle School, an email from the school to parents states. A "family unification team" is at the main office of the middle school to assist in connecting parents with their children. Buses will pick up students at Poulsbo Middle School to be transported home.

All Poulsbo Elementary after school activities are cancelled. Children in the M&M program will still meet in the portable at the elementary, the email from the school states.

"We are very proud of the manner in which our students, staff and our local law enforcement have handled the situation," the email reads.

Poulsbo Elementary Principal Claudia Alves said she "would think" the two incidents are related, but she has no suspects.

Deputy Police Chief Bob Wright agrees. He said he believes the incidents are related and suspects an elementary school student is responsible. He said Poulsbo Police will be interviewing staff and students. "We'll find something that matches to yesterday," he said.

There were no injuries to students, faculty or firefighters in either incident.

"This is why we practice," Payne said. "And [the students] did great … We were ready and prepared."

Kitsap County Fire Marshal Tina Turner and Poulsbo Police are investigating the fire, Poulsbo Fire spokeswoman Jody Matson said.

"I imagine they'll be getting to the bottom of it real quick," Matson said.

There are no suspects at this time, Matson said.

If the investigation finds a student, or students, were involved with the fire, Matson said the fire department has programs to intervene to help stop juvenile fire starters. Methods to intervene and stop fire starting include interviewing the student(s) and parents and talk to them about the consequences of starting fires.

If the reasons for starting fires are "more serious in nature," Matson said the student(s) will be referred to professional counselors.

Herald Reporter Kipp Robertson contributed to this report.

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