Fire, evacuation at North Shore Elementary

'Biggest challenge... is reuniting the children with their families'

Jacksonville Fire-Rescue responded to a fire alarm at the school near the intersection of Main and 48th streets.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A fire in an air-handling unit at an elementary school in Brentwood forced the students to evacuate an hour before dismissal on Friday afternoon.

Jacksonville Fire-Rescue responded to the school at the intersection of 48th and Main streets about 2 p.m.  After a few minutes, they found the smoke was coming from above a second-floor classroom and requested more units.

IMAGES:  School evacuation

"We did have an active fire inside that was affecting one of the classrooms, so that's why the building was evacuated," JFRD Chief Marty Senterfitt said.

Because it happened near the end of the school day, school officials began dismissing the students from the field. Buses and parents were directed to the staging areas outside the building.

That was the biggest challenge -- getting the children reunited with their parents or onto the right school bus.

"That biggest challenge we have now.... you've got hundreds of children that are having to be reunited with their families and getting them on the right school bus," Senterfitt said about 3:30 p.m.

School Board maintenance personnel were evaluating the damage and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Roads around the school that were blocked for emergency equipment reopened about 4:30 p.m.