Students at Bunger Middle School in Evansdale got an unexpected early dismissal from classes today (Wednesday, October 22, 2014). Fire broke out inside the building and forced everyone to be evacuated.

According to Evansdale Fire Chief Kent Smock, students and staff were taken to nearby Prince of Peace Church. He said everyone evacuated the school safely and there were no injuries.

Waterloo Schools spokesperson Tara Thomas said the church is a planned evacuation site for Bunger, in the event of an emergency.

Firefighters were called to Bunger around 10 a.m. when the school's resource officer noticed smoke in the building.

“Firefighters encountered real heavy smoke in the northern hallway,” Smock said. “It took a while to find the fire, simply because we had to go through so many rooms and you couldn't see anything inside. Once (fire crews) finally found the fire, they were able to make a quick knockdown and put the fire out,” Smock said.

Because there were so many rooms to check, Smock said fire crews from nearby Waterloo, Raymond and Gilbertville were called in to assist.

According to Smock, the fire started in a female student bathroom in the northeast part of the school. The blaze was contained to that bathroom, but it caused extensive damage to that space.

Smock said nearly half of the school received extensive smoke damage, while the other half has minor to moderate smoke damge.

“Right now, the cause is under investigation,” Smock said. “We hope to have a cause and, hopefully, origin by the end of the day.”

Smock says firefighters believe they know what sparked the fire, but local investigators want to confirm their findings with the State Fire Marshall's Office because of the type of fire and the amount of damage there was.

Smock expects to get some help in the investigation.

“All Waterloo schools have cameras, so we're going to have good video of who the last person was in and out of that bathroom,” he said. “We can talk with them to see what they saw.”

Smock says if the fire was intentionally set, charges could range anywhere from reckless use of fire to arson.

Classes at Bunger were called off for the day around 11 a.m. Buses were picking up students from Prince of Peace and parents were sent to the church to get their kids.

There is no school at Bunger on Thursday or Friday this week, due to conferences. Classes are expected to resume at Bunger, as scheduled, on Monday.