Kim Broker was in the school office, ordering supplies for the Cathedral of the Risen Christ School’s 315 students, when she saw smoke coming from the first-floor kindergarten classroom.
And then she saw the construction crew emerging from the basement.
“One of the workers came up and said, ‘There’s a fire,'” the school secretary said. “He said he needed a fire extinguisher.”
The flames were pouring out a window -- and the fire climbing up the basement stairs -- when the first of two dozen firefighters arrived at 37th Street and Sheridan Boulevard about 2:20 p.m. Monday. They contained the blaze to the basement, put it out and spent more than an hour trying to clear smoke from the single-story Catholic school.
Nobody was injured in the fire, and there were no students at the school when it started.
But there was a handful of staffers and a construction crew, which is replacing the building’s heating unit and adding an air conditioning system. A worker in the basement -- cutting a shaft for ductwork -- hit rebar with his demolition saw, spraying sparks onto a stack of floor buffer pads and igniting the fire, said Fire Inspector Donald Gross.
The two-alarm fire moved out of that room and started climbing toward the first floor. The school’s automatic alarm system is turned off because of dust from the construction work, but Principal Tony Primavera pulled the fire alarm, Broker said.
The extent of the damage was unclear Tuesday afternoon. The basement, which houses a couple of classrooms, was hit hardest, with fire, water and smoke damage. The first floor filled with smoke and could have suffered some water damage, Gross said.
Primavera, after venturing down the dark hallway to retrieve keys, a computer and the school credit card, said the office didn’t seem badly damaged, and staff could be back at work Tuesday.