Oven fires at schools prompt statewide investigation - KPTV - FOX 12

Oven fires at schools prompt statewide investigation

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Three local school fires within a year have all been caused by an oven, and FOX 12 has learned those ovens came from the same manufacturer - Blodgett - and all had a mercury switch.

In a statement, Blodgett representatives said they started using those switches back in the 80s. It said a Hi-Volt connection can become loose over time and overheat.

As for the mercury itself, a highly toxic chemical, Beaverton School District officials tell FOX 12 a toxicologist found trace amounts in the kitchen at Five Oaks Middle School, where a fire broke out.

"I think it's really important to know that our certified industrial hygienist has said this is very minimal risk to students and staff," said Karl Granlund with the district.

Still, as a safety precaution, the district has closed down the kitchen and meals are being cooked off-site and delivered.

The school kitchen won't reopen it until all traces of mercury are removed.

Blodgett representatives said it removed the mercury switches from all models in 2007, but many schools across the state still have the old models.

Beaverton School District has 13 in operation, Sherwood has one and Salem-Keizer has at least 17.

Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue has now put out a statewide alert. It's recommending that schools perform regular oven maintenance and, if possible, replace the mercury switches.

Both Beaverton and Salem-Keizer school district said they will replace all mercury switches.

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