Holderness School fire

Gail Ober/Union Leader Correspondent Debris and firefighing foam litter the roof of the north side of the under-construction roof of the Davis Center at Holderness School Friday.

HOLDERNESS — A three-alarm fire apparently caused by a torch being used by construction crews on the roof damaged the under-construction Davis Center at Holderness School Friday morning.

Marketing and Communications Director Andrew Herring said the fire started around 8:30 a.m.

“I knew something was wrong when (construction) crews ran out of the building and seemed clearly in distress,” said Herring.

He said that when firefighters vented the roof, flames poured out from the north section of the 35,000-square-foot building. He said the flames died down around 10 a.m.

Herring said the building is part of an active construction site and that no students or faculty are allowed within the fenced area.

“Fortunately, there were no injuries,” he said.

Holderness Fire Chief Eleanor Marden said it was initially difficult to reach the fire as there are five layers of roof, including a steel membrane they had to cut through.

Marden said once the fire was vented, crews from about 12 communities were able to work from the second floor to put out the blaze. She also said the sprinkler company was installing equipment on the second floor but the fire burned in the roof so the sprinklers didn’t go off.

Marden said she called for a third alarm because they needed manpower and it was very hot. There are fire hydrants on the grounds so she said water was not an issue. There were no firefighter injuries.

Herring said the fire is a setback to the $25 million project. Construction began in May and was scheduled for completion in late winter.

“We don’t know the exact amount of damage yet,” he said.

Holderness School is a private residential school for grades 9 through 12. It was founded in 1879.

The Davis Center will include a state-of-the-art math and science department that Herring said was in the planning stages a year before construction began. He said it will incorporate appropriate and timely technology along with a physical view of the White Mountains.

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