Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway Elementary School students are all around town

Lawrence building remains closed after Jan. 10 fire


After an early morning fire in Jan. 10, Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway Elementary School remains closed, but the students are receiving instruction at the HAFTR Middle School, Beth Sholom Congregation synagogue and Young Israel of Lawrence-Cedarhurst shul, officials said.

Schools officials said they are unsure when the school building could reopen, but it could be later this week.

The fire damaged the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab and the accompanying water and smoke damaged other parts of the building at 33 Washington Ave. in Lawrence on Jan. 10, HAFTR officials said.

Lawrence-Cedarhurst, Hewlett, Inwood, Woodmere and Long Beach firefighters responded to the fire after the first automatic alarm came in at 3:03 a.m., according to LCFD Chief James McHugh.

"The first chief on the scene smelled smoke and when he went inside he saw the fire," McHugh said, adding that it was in a room on the second floor. Firefighters contained the blaze and were on the scene for one hour and 45 minutes, he said, noting that the firefighters used 500 feet of hose, which is a lot, McHugh said.

The fire damage closed the school for Jan. 10 and 11. McHugh believes the damage will keep the building closed to at least Jan. 14. He said the Nassau County Fire Marshal deemed the blaze "not suspicious." A problem with the STEM lab's electrical power strips ignited the fire, the fire marshal said.

In a letter sent to school parents, officials stated: “The restoration company is already working hard to accelerate the clean-up process in order to reopen the school as soon as possible. We are in contact with the building department, fire marshal, Village of Lawrence, PSEG and our third-party vendors to make sure everything is safe for the reopening.”

A “thorough inspection of all buildings on the lower campus” will be conducted, HAFTR officials said. “The safety of our students and faculty is our NUMBER ONE PRIOTY,” school officials also stated in the letter. “At this time, our electricity, internet and phones are down.”

School officials noted that they are greatly appreciative of all the support from the parents and concern from their neighbors. “We are especially thankful to the fire and police departments, as well as the local schools ad local representatives for their support,” HAFTR officials stated in the letter.