Union Springs Academy Begins Recovery After Fire Destroys Classrooms

Union Springs Academy Begins Recovery After Fire Destroys Classrooms

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On Dec. 3, 2016, firefighters work to control a fire at Union Springs Academy in New York.
Photo obtained from the Union Springs Academy website


A fire broke out at Union Springs Academy (USA) in New York on Dec. 3 as students were just finishing Sabbath lunch. No one was inside the USA administration/classroom building, where the fire occurred. A maintenance worker called 911 after he noticed smoke pouring from the building; firefighters were on the scene a few minutes before 2 p.m.
In a Dec. 5 Auburn Citizen article(www.auburnpub.com), Garret Waldron, Union Springs fire chief, reported that first responders reported black smoke coming from the administration building, which has classrooms, offices and the gym. The structure, he said, was reportedly last occupied the night before, with the nearest dormitory roughly 150 feet away. Firefighters from eight different companies helped put the fire out, and no one — faculty, students, or firefighters — was injured.
The school building suffered smoke and fire damage. Makeshift classrooms were set up for USA’s 48 students inside the nearby Union Springs Seventh-day Adventist Church in time for classes on Monday, Dec. 5. School administrators said that the church will be home for the rest of the year.

Offices and classrooms, including the music room (bottom photo) at Union Springs Academy were destroyed in a Dec. 3 fire.
Photos provided by Union Springs Academy/Facebook


“While we are still waiting for the official cause of the fire to be determined, what has already been determined is that God has performed, and continues to perform, great works for his people,” school administrators shared in a statement on Dec. 5.  They said that the timing of the fire was “providential.” 
According to the statement, the flashpoint occurred exactly four minutes prior to 911 being called. Students and staff spotted smoke as they left the cafeteria following lunch. If the flashpoint had occurred at the beginning of the meal and the smoke went unnoticed, or if it had occurred in the middle of the night, the administration building would have likely been beyond repair.
“God protected His people,” said Jere Clayburn, USA principal, in the statement. “God protected His school. Just imagine what would have happened if the gas line had ignited. The damage could have been so much worse, but God prevented that disaster from happening.” Clayburn also shared that all school records were miraculously left intact. “Once the professional cleaners have finished their work we will have full retention of every important document,” he said.
The school has already received help from multiple entities. Many on Facebook have offered prayers; and alumni have sent words of encouragement and support to USA.
The Union Springs church doors have been wide open from the beginning, offering support and encouragement. Administrators reported that they’ve received offers to help clean, make donations, provide supplies, and much more. “We have already had help from some in covering the holes in the roof, boarding up windows, and more. And the messages of prayer and support have been positively overwhelming. Thank you all!” the Dec. 7 Facebook statement read.

The Atlantic Union Conference and the North American Division have supplied USA with 70 flash drives to transfer needed data from ruined computers. School administrators also reported that a local Mennonite community has offered the use of their gymnasium; the Village of Cayuga has offered the use of their town hall, which also has a gymnasium.
The local Lion’s Club will present the school with a gift at their Christmas dinner. The Cayuga United Methodist Church, with whom the school has fostered positive connections through the past several years, has also reached out with gifts, as have other denominations in the area.
The Pennsylvania Conference, Blue Mountain Academy, and Atlantic Union College asked USA for a list of needs, telling the school that they would do what they could to meet the needs on that list. USA administrators reported that the Union Springs Public School superintendent has made sure USA received four borrowed SMART Boards, 21 computers for a full computer lab, and a tech specialist who is helping the school set up the lab and establish a proper network. Musical instruments may also be lent to the school.
Clayburn said, “As you can see from the pictures, the damage is extensive, and the work before us is great. But God is paving the way, for He knows the end from the beginning, and He is working all things together for good.”
The school is reporting that the clean up has begun with a project manager in place to oversee the job. And today, Dec. 8, the first check is scheduled to arrive with a representative from the insurance company.
For updates on rebuilding efforts, visit Union Springs Academy’s Facebook page or the school’s website.

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