After multiple fire code violations at Summit High School were revealed to the public in November, fire safety systems were tested, inspected and fixed — if needed — by an independent contractor at every Bend-La Pine Schools building this spring and summer.
More than 45 smoke dampers in nine schools failed testing and were replaced this summer, according to documents provided by Cascade Heating & Specialties, the company that performed the tests and made repairs.
Smoke dampers are found in air ducts and close during fires to prevent smoke from spreading through heating and air conditioning systems.
Repairs to dampers and actuators, which open and close the dampers, were made at Bend, Summit and Mountain View high schools; Sky View and La Pine middle schools; Pine Ridge, Rosland and High Lakes elementary schools; and Three Rivers School.
In a few other schools, Cascade Heating replaced temperature-sensitive devices that hold smoke dampers open until temperatures close the damper and restrict the spread of smoke and fire.
This is the first time Bend-La Pine Schools did not perform its own inspections of fire protection systems. On Dec. 4, Deputy State Fire Marshal Kevin Sullivan wrote a letter to Bend-La Pine Superintendent Shay Mikalson, informing him the school district was banned from inspecting its own fire systems. Before this, Bend-La Pine was the only local major organization or company to maintain its own fire alarms, according to Bend Fire Marshal Larry Medina.
He said Monday that Bend-La Pine would be required to use third-party inspectors until further notice. He said he was confident in Cascade Heating’s inspections, stating that “they know what they’re doing.” Medina also wasn’t surprised by the number of schools with broken smoke dampers.
“We anticipated that if it was happening at one school, it was most likely happening at all the schools,” he said.
Dan Dummitt, Bend-La Pine’s maintenance supervisor, said the school district has spent more than $600,000 on the fire system inspections, and wrote in an email that Cascade Heating has “done a great job.”
Like Medina, Dummitt wrote that he was not caught off-guard by the number of failed smoke dampers.
“With over 2.8 million square feet (of building space) in the district, it is normal to have equipment in need of repair,” he wrote.
In November, two Bend-La Pine maintenance employees said they thought the fire code violations at Summit High were done intentionally. For example, they believed the smoke dampers were permanently propped open because the district didn’t want to pay for repairs.
Medina said he wasn’t sure how many of the fire system deficiencies found this summer were intentionally caused, as inspections only tell the fire department whether or not the systems work — not why they don’t work.
The first schools to be tested and repaired were Summit and Sky View, which received fixes in the spring, according to Cascade Heating documents. Each school had two-thirds of its smoke dampers replaced, and all actuators replaced.
The final schools to receive repairs are three La Pine schools: Rosland Elementary and La Pine middle and high schools. Eric Tabert from Cascade Heating said he expects to finish repairs at those schools before classes begin Wednesday.
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