5 moms battle Lakewood Elementary School fire

LAKEWOOD — An arson fire Wednesday night that caused an estimated $150,000 damage to Lakewood Elementary School could have been a lot worse were it not for the quick action of five fearless moms.

The north Snohomish County women were watching their school-aged sons’ football practice nearby when they noticed black smoke about 6:45 p.m.

They called 911, raced over to the school, broke windows to get fire extinguishers and worked furiously to prevent the flames from reaching the roof.

“When we got here, the flames were ridiculous,” said Tracy Melton, who sprayed water on the fire. “The heat was so bad.”

She and friend Terri Virdell were walking around the Lakewood High School track when they first saw the smoke. By the time they arrived, they could hear a “pop, pop, pop” sound.

A man who lives near the school ran home and brought back a fire extinguisher that was used to break the first window to get into the building. From there, the moms armed themselves with extinguishers from the school and teamed up to battle the blaze until more than a dozen firefighters arrived.

“They definitely helped to contain it,” said Stephanie Price, a spokeswoman for the Marysville Fire District. It was minutes from being a large-scale attic fire in the school.”

The Snohomish County Fire Marshal’s Office reported it was an arson fire, Price said. “It looked like it was started by a combustible on the outside of the building.”

Fred Owyen, the Lakewood School District’s director of operations, was thankful for the vigilant mothers.

“Their quick response, I think, made a huge difference,” he said.

The area damaged by fire was part of a $2.3 million addition completed in 2005. The project included a four-classroom wing and renovation of the 1958 portion of the school’s main building, which is being converted into a library, computer lab and staff areas.

Owyen said it was too early to have a firm damage estimate.

Dawn Taylor, one of the mothers, was treated for smoke inhalation after helping fight the fire.

“It was such a shock to see how big it was,” she said. “I was just praying that we could save it. I was worried about it getting into the roof.”

Jamie Miller ran into the rooms to retrieve the fire extinguishers for Melton and Taylor. She said she kept thinking how important the school is to the Lakewood community and how the students will need the classrooms in the fall.

Angela Ramirez, who had been watching at her son’s practice in her business clothes, ran to the school in her black, pointy-toed high heels.

“This is not something you do every day, breaking windows to a school, but you have your adrenaline pumping” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Holy cow, this is it. We have to get it down.’”

Ramirez had extra incentive. Her daughter, Iliana, 5, will be in kindergarten at Lakewood Elementary in the fall.

Christian Melton, 14, was at football practice when his mom rushed off.

He came by the elementary school afterward in a No. 6 maroon jersey to find out his mother had helped contain the fire.

“She is a stud,” he said. “I think it’s amazing.”

By 9:30 p.m., things were returning to normal in the Melton household. Tracy Melton was making pork chops, macaroni and salad for dinner.

“Football players get real hungry,” she said.

Reporter Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446 or e-mail stevick@heraldnet.com.

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