A lawn tractor caught fire at Southern Aroostook Community School early Wednesday morning inside the school's work bay. Although the fire was contained to the bay, school officials canceled classes for the day. The fire was believed to be electrical in nature. Credit: Courtesy of Jon Porter

DYER BROOK, Maine — An electrical short circuit in a lawn tractor stored in a garage at Southern Aroostook Community School is the likely cause of a fire that closed the school to students for the day on Wednesday.

The buildings and grounds crew discovered one of the school’s tractors on fire in the garage bay shortly after arriving for work at 5:30 a.m., RSU 50 Superintendent Jon Porter said Wednesday morning.

The crew grabbed fire extinguishers and used a wash bay hose to prevent flames from spreading, and their quick action kept the damage from being much worse, Porter said.

he inside of the work bay at Southern Aroostook Community School shows how the walls and ceiling were scorched by an early morning fire at the school. Credit: Courtesy of Jon Porter

Although the fire was completely contained to the garage, school was canceled because of the strong smell of smoke in the common areas, such as the cafeteria and gymnasium.

None of the classrooms were affected, the superintendent said.

“The guys were able to do a really good job keeping it contained until the Oakfield and Island Falls fire departments could arrive,” Porter said.

Firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the remaining fire, but not before it damaged a second tractor in the bay, the school’s wastewater tank and the walls and ceiling of the work bay, Porter said.

The lawn tractors are used to sand the walkways around the school during the winter months.

The Southern Aroostook girls basketball team was slated to host a quarterfinal basketball game Wednesday evening against Easton. Porter said that game may still be able to take place at the school, or they could swap locations and play the game at Easton. A final decision will be made later in the day.

“We have cleared most of the smoke out of the school, and the entire building was not impacted,” he said. “We are fortunate it happened when it did. Had this happened at 11 p.m., it could have been a lot worse.”