Maplewood, New Jersey: Columbia High School was evacuated at approximately 12:35pm this afternoon after students smelled smoke in the A wing of the school's first floor, near room A131. The students informed school security staff and a Maplewood Police officer, who were reportedly outside of a nearby restroom due to an unrelated incident.
The fire alarm was activated while students were walking from their Period 6 classrooms to their Period 7 classrooms. Students and staff members remained outside of the building on nearby streets until approximately 12:57pm, when authorities gave permission for the building to reopen.
Firefighters and officers from the Maplewood Fire Department and the Maplewood Police Department responded to the school less than five minutes after the alarm was activated. Parker Avenue was closed between Prospect and Valley Streets while authorities investigated. Kensington Terrace was also shut down.
Following the evacuation, Columbia High School assistant principal Michael Healy announced that the incident was a "real fire emergency", and that the "building has been deemed safe".
Dozens of students were taking Advanced Placement exams when the fire alarm was activated.
UPDATE: Maplewood Fire Department Chief Michael R. Dingelstedt told Essex County Place that the evacuation was caused following a report by Columbia High School Principal Elizabeth Aaron that a fan had caught fire. "Investigation revealed a moderate smoke condition caused by a fan motor burning in a wall above the office", said Chief Dingelstedt, who added that the fan was turned off prior to the arrival of the Maplewood Fire Department. According to Chief Dingelstedt, this action prevented the "fire from extending beyond the fan motor". After the fan was disconnected and removed, the building was ventilated using a ventilation fan. Once this was complete, the building reopened.
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