School finally installs new kiln to replace one damaged in 2017 fire

October 30, 2019 — by Rohan Kumar and Cici Xu

Ceramic rooms new kiln after the first was damaged in the fire in 2017

Most school fire alarms are merely drills. But that was not the case with the fire alarm that blared on Nov. 30, 2017. 

After hours of waiting and eventually being dismissed early, students still didn’t know what had happened. It turned out that a fire had flared up in the ceramics room (Room 203), damaging the kiln and the nearby roof.

According to art teacher Diana Vanry, the fire was caused by built-up dust in the exhaust shaft that was ignited when the gas-powered by turning on the kiln was turned on.  Also damaged in the fire were power and gas lines and the evacuation led to a shortened school day. In late September, the damage from the fire was fully repaired when a new kiln was installed. According to district Director of Capital Projects and IT Tony Palma, the repairs cost over $90,000.

Once repairs to the kiln area were finished in September, a new electric kiln was installed. Although Vanry has been able to fire pieces with an old backup electric kiln, she says the new kiln is generally more reliable and has features such as the ability to store presets and reach higher temperatures. 

“Glaze can be finicky since there can be a lot of imperfections based on the timing of kiln,” Vanry said. “So the great thing about the new kiln is that I won’t even have to think about it; I’ll just be able to push a button, and it’ll go through the process for the right time at the correct temperature.”

Now that Vanry has access to two kilns, she plans to use the new one to fire projects that require higher temperatures as it is more reliable than the backup kiln.

“The kiln is very important in our product making process. We need to put our raw clay into the Kiln and burn it first before we add any color to it,” said Tina Hu, a sophomore who is currently taking Ceramics 2.

The new electric kiln is also safer than the kiln that was damaged in the fire, which was a gas kiln. Gas kilns require a fire safety permit due to their volatile nature.

“We haven’t used our new kiln yet, but we will use it a few days later,” Hu said. “Vanry is already making preparations for the first bake.”

Although Vanry did not have much of a say in the installation of the new kiln, she is still happy with what the district ordered.

“They just ordered it and installed it, but I’m really happy to have it. It really is an upgrade from the previous one,” Vanry said.

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