Fabrication Lab incident sparks fiery student reactions

Students left disappointed after evacuation



On Thursday, April 28, firetrucks gathered outside of New Trier’s Winnetka Campus after fire alarm went off

Last Thursday during eighth period, all of the New Trier staff and students were evacuated  when a fire alarm was set off by a small flame that started in the Fabrication Lab after a malfunction with a woodcutting machine. 

“While [the wood] was cutting on this machine, it warped and rose up… It caused so much friction that a hot spark went up into the exhaust system into the exhaust bag,” said Robert Spagnoli, who was there when the fire occurred.

There was not even a single thought in my mind that it was real.”

— Jackson

After 55 minutes of standing outside of the school premises, the fire department deemed it safe to reenter the building. Nearly an hour later, school superintendent Paul Sally sent out a parent email to clarify the incident.

“At approximately 2:20 p.m., a small, contained fire occurred in a lower level Applied Arts lab at the Winnetka Campus. No one was injured and no students were in the room where the fire occurred,” the email reads. 

Many students, like sophomore Katja Seibrits, felt that the email did not do a satisfactory job of explaining the situation, especially because the nature of the fire was never officially clarified to the students. “[The email] wasn’t actually helpful. I got my information from other students and not the email,” said Seibrits.

Junior Mia Jackson felt similarly. Students learned about what happened from other students.

“I feel like that is a big problem,” said Jackson. 

Once the evacuation had led everyone outside, multiple students felt no concern due to the frequent amount of fire drills and false alarms that have occurred over the course over the year. 

“I was a little bit worried, but this is like the fifth time this has happened this year, so I thought it would be fine until we were outside for longer than usual,” said Seibrits.

Junior Xiaotian Shangguan assumed it was a fire drill.

“I thought, ‘oh, I’ll get a short break from school for a bit,’ but then after 30 minutes, we kind of realized this wasn’t normal,” she said 

Due to a lack of communication to teachers and students, students like junior Tiger Lee had no idea a fire had even broken out. He spent the first 20 minutes thinking it would be dismissed and students would head back inside, but after 25 minutes he started wondering if there was an actual fire.

“The trucks made me really concerned and eventually it circulated that a small fire had broken out, and I was in shock that I had walked out of class so nonchalantly while a real fire had broken out,” said Lee.

When Jackson had to evacuate from her history class, a similar thought process occurred; she didn’t think it was an actual fire like the other fire alarms this year. 

“I genuinely just thought it would be over in 15 minutes. There was not even a single thought in my mind that it was real,” she said. “My worst worry was, ‘will I get the stuff  [I left inside] back?’”

Most students agree the situation was handled well by the staff, but there needed to be more communication about the situation to the students. 

“I feel like they should’ve used that emergency text service New Trier has just to update us and give us an estimate about how long we were gonna be out there for,” said Seibrits. 

“The only thing I think they could have done better was a bit more communication,” Jackson agreed, believing that the situation needed to be communicated between the fire department, teachers, and students.

“We didn’t know if it was a false alarm, we didn’t know if it was just a tiny little flame, we didn’t know if the building was gonna blow up. Students should know what is going on, they have to know what happened, because it’s our right. It’s our school, it’s our lives possibly at risk.”