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Friday, October 30, 2015

Five students injured in chemical fire at Woodson High School

Fire units respond to fire at Woodson

Updated, 8:30 p.m.
Five students suffered burns from a fire in a chemistry classroom at Woodson High School this morning.

Two of them were seriously injured and transported via helicopter, one to the Burn Center at Medstar Washington Hospital Center and the other to the burn center at Childrens Hospital. Those injuries were “not life threatening,” said Fairfax County Fire Chief Richard Bowers Jr. at a press briefing outside the school.  The main concern is the threat of infection.

Fire Chief Richard Bowers (right) briefs reporters. Next to him is Police Chief Edwin Roessler.
Three students had less-serious injuries and were transported to Inova Fairfax Hospital. A teacher suffered  minor injuries and was treated on the spot, Bowers said.

Officials have not yet released the names of the injured students and declined to identify their genders or ages or the extent of the injuries. Bower, however, acknowledged the students “came into contact with a heat source.” The chemistry class had mostly sophomores and juniors.

One of those seriously injured was Sonya Garvis, a 10th grader, said Woodson student Matthew Pattarozzi, who saw her being evacuated in a helicopter with burned hair. The class was taught by chemistry teacher Susan Sharaf.

The class was conducting an experiment using chemicals to change the color of fire, said Pattarozzi and his friends gathered on the baseball field at about 2 p.m. They said they heard screams and smelled smoke but did not hear an explosion.

“There is no evidence of criminal activity,” said Police Chief Edwin Roessler. Jr, and the Fire Department confirmed the fire was accidental. “The fire was chemical in nature” and it happened during a “teacher-led instruction activity,” Bowers said.
The school was evacuated. Students were sent to the football stadium to wait for school buses or parents to pick them up.  

The 911 call came in at 9:35 a.m. The first firefighters on the scene encountered an active fire in a classroom in the science wing, said Bowers. Sprinklers were activated, and firefighters used water hoses to extinguish the fire.

About 50 percent of the classroom was damaged by fire, smoke, and water, he said. Damage to the classroom is estimated at $7,500.

After the incident, people in the school “did exactly what they were supposed to do,” Bowers aid. They called 911, helped the injured, evacuated the classroom, and closed the door.

Francis Ivey, the assistant superintendent for Region 5, said, “on behalf of Superintendent Karen Garza, our thoughts and prayers are with the injured students and their families.”

A notice on the Woodson website from Principal Scott Poole said counselors will be available to students who want to talk about the incident. Tonights football game and pre-game activities will be held as scheduled.


  1. Can you give a status update to this story.

    1. One student is still in the hospital. There were actually two teachers in the classroom during the accident and both are on leave recovering from the incident.