Crew cleans fire-damaged Lake Clifton


A crew of 300 workers organized by a company specializing in emergency reconstruction rushed yesterday to scrub away soot and complete a $1 million cleanup to reopen Lake Clifton-Eastern High School this morning, exactly a week after it was heavily damaged by fire.

"They're expecting business as usual," said Donna Franks, TC spokeswoman for the Baltimore school system. Only the library, which will have to be reconstructed and restocked, will not be functioning, she said.

City health and safety inspectors toured the school late yesterday and pronounced it fit for reoccupancy. "They were looking at structural safety and air quality," Ms. Franks said.

The work began 12 hours after the fire and continued around the clock all last week, Ms. Franks said. Lake Clifton-Eastern is the city's largest high school, and no other facility was available to hold classes for its 2,229 students, she said.

The crash repair work was led by a team from Inrecon, a private company in Detroit that bills itself as "disaster specialists," Ms. Franks said. Inrecon, in turn, hired 10 local contractors to do parts of the work.

Crews replaced hundreds of windows, rebuilt walls and ceilings and cleaned rooms that were spared by the flames but coated with soot. Inrecon specialists cleaned the insides of computers, restored telephone wiring and restored hundreds of documents damaged by fire or water, Ms. Franks said.

She said the cost of the cleanup to date is approximately $1 million. She had no estimate on the future cost of rebuilding the library or replacing the books, but said officials expect all the losses to be covered by insurance.

Many people have called offering to donate books to replace the lost collection, which included 500 shelves of nonfiction books, hundreds of paperbacks, a fiction collection, six bookcases of new career-planning books and a new computerized encyclopedia.

Ms. Franks said there is no place to store donated books, but people may call the school at 396-6637 to have their names added to the list of future donors.

Contrary to initial reports that blamed a faulty electrical outlet, fire investigators have not determined the cause of the fire, said Battalion Chief Hector Torres, a spokesman for the Baltimore Fire Department. They have ruled out arson, he said.

The sprawling school on St. Lo Drive in Northeast Baltimore, called the largest in the country when it opened in 1971, was designed as five buildings connected by passageways. Fire damage was concentrated in "the central core," containing the library and administrative offices.

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