Smoky roof fire on JCPS building quickly extinguished

Westport Early Childhood Center roof catches fire

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A fire on the roof of a Jefferson County Public Schools building produced smoke that could be seen for miles.

At 12:45 p.m. Thursday, firefighters from St. Matthews and Anchorage-Middletown were dispatched to the Westport Early Childhood Center, located at 8800 Westport Road.

St. Matthews Assistant Fire Chief David Howser said there was heavy fire when the first crews arrived. Firefighters found the fire was on the top layer of the five-layer roof. A hand line was used to put the fire out.

“Although the fire was on the surface, we needed to make sure there was no fire hitting down against the additional layers, so that’s why we had a lot of manpower here, in this heat to take care and make sure it’s all out,” Howser said.

Roofers were doing work on the building. Howser said a tar pot which was knocked over started the fire.

“I thought it was going to burn down to tell you the truth,” said Lois Smith, who lives next door. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ The school, they’ve done all this work, and now it’s on fire. But I had no idea. I mean I was just dumbfounded. I mean really dumbfounded.”

JCPS spokeswoman Toni Konz Tatman said the school building is being converted into an early childhood education center. Work began in mid-March with full renovation underway since the school year ended in June.

Although this is the second day of the 2019-2020 school year, there were no classes in session at the building, which was originally Westport Vocational School and later became the home of the Westport Teenage Parent Program. Another JCPS spokeswoman, Renee Murphy, said the early childhood program at the school wasn’t scheduled to begin for another two weeks.

No injuries were reported. Staff members were training off-site.

The full extent of damage to the building, and whether it will delay the start of the early childhood program there, is unknown. Tatman said she believes two or three classrooms were affected by the firefighting efforts.

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