DOLGEVILLE — Officials believe a lightning strike caused a small fire underneath the stage of Dolgeville Central School’s auditorium Saturday evening, during a string of thunderstorms that passed through the region.
Superintendent Christine Reynolds said she received a phone call at 10:28 p.m. Saturday through an alarm system installed at the school.
"When the alarm goes off, the fire department is immediately notified," said Reynolds during a telephone interview Monday.
She said by the time she had contacted the Dolgeville Volunteer Fire Department, they had already dispatched trucks to the scene.
"They encountered pretty heavy smoke, saw there was a fire and entered the area," said Reynolds. "The fire company did a great job and had it knocked down very quickly."
Reynolds said fire investigators spent time Sunday and Monday determining the cause of the fire.
"After investigating it this weekend, it was a lightning strike," she said. "It followed an abandoned phone line and slowly burned until it ignited an area under the stage."
Reynolds said mechanical equipment and props from past stage productions are stored in the area.
She said there was "significant smoke damage to everything in that area."
"[It] ended up burning the insulation on and above a large air handling unit. That’s all damaged," she said. "The computer controls, the fans and pumps for air handling units didn’t burn, but it did get wet. We have somebody coming in tomorrow [Tuesday] to look at the system if it needs to be replaced."
Cleanup is expected to continue into Tuesday, said Reynolds.
The school district is currently undergoing renovations, including the auditorium area. Reynolds said the affected area didn’t include where the capital project work is currently being done.
The Dolgeville Central School District’s Facebook page stated the fire isn’t expected to impact current school activities, the ongoing construction at the school or the opening of school.
"We would like to give a great big shout out to the Dolgeville Fire Department and Police Department, as well as Salisbury Fire Department, Hilltop Fire Department and the Oppenheim Fire Department for their quick actions that spared our school from any further damage," according to the Facebook post.
No one could be reached at the Dolgeville Volunteer Fire Department on Monday for comment.
A post on the department’s Facebook page on Saturday stated "a busy evening and night for our team. The department responded to over 15 investigations, service calls, alarms and a working structure fire. Great job to all members and thanks to the mutual aid companies Salisbury Fire, Oppenheim Fire and Hilltop Fire. Our region was busy to say the least."
Strong storms passed through the region throughout the day Saturday, leading to power outages and downed tree limbs.
"There were power outages through most of the county, off and on," said Herkimer County Emergency Services Coordinator Robert Vandawalker during a telephone interview on Monday.
Vandawalker said there were thousands of people without power in the county, some for a "lengthy" period, due to the storms.
"We got out of the storm without having any major problems," he said.
Vandawalker said the agency helped out at the Pine Lake Campground in Fulton County, where a music festival was being held. Media reports have stated several people were injured when the storm tore through the campsite, which also left extensive damage to campers and vehicles in its wake. Heavy storm damage — including downed trees — were also reported in Richfield Springs.
Saturday’s inclement weather led to the cancellation of the Schuyler Corn Competition and Car Show "due to safety reasons and loss of power to our indoor facility," according to the event’s Facebook page.