Fire extinguisher accident at Nansemond River High School triggers emergency response

Published 11:52 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

13 students and one adult were treated at area hospitals after a fire extinguisher was accidentally bumped and discharged during a class change. Initially, over 70 students reported respiratory irritation. Due to the number of students who presented with respiratory irritation, SFD declared a ‘Mass Casualty Incident.” SFD confirmed twelve of those students and one adult were transported to area hospitals and one student was transported by a parent. All are believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

Suffolk Fire and Rescue responded to the Nansemond River High School at 9:56 a.m., according to SFD Chief Mike Barakey in a press release.

Once on scene, firefighters found the fire extinguisher, which contains dry chemical power and is designed to suppress class A, B, and C fires was accidentally discharged in a hallway of the school.  

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The area where the extinguisher was discharged was isolated, and the HVAC system was secured.  At the time of this release, 16 students were being transported to area hospitals and an additional 60 students were being evaluated in the auditorium.

Parents of affected students have all been notified.

In a letter sent to NRHS parents and guardians, principal Shawn Green said the extinguisher was “mistakenly bumped into.”

“This morning during a class change, a fire extinguisher was mistakenly bumped into and subsequently fell from the wall to the floor and the extinguisher discharged,” Green said in a release to parents. “As a result, our school immediately moved to a Code Yellow emergency status to clear the hallways. The incident was contained swiftly, and there is no ongoing threat to the safety of our students or staff. Nine students were transported to the local hospital for further evaluation. Any student or staff or who complained of any discomfort were seen by emergency personnel on site.”

Suffolk Fire and Rescue also received automatic aid and mutual aid from Hampton Roads Fire and Rescue Departments to assist in this incident.  The City of Suffolk and Suffolk Fire & Rescue are working with Suffolk City Public Schools to provide additional information as it becomes available.