By 1 pm the mercury had climbed to
88 degrees. Kids on summer break
giggled and zipped their bikes and
scooters through the tree-lined
streets, not a care in the world.
Young parents walked their infants
on sun-baked sidewalks, one hand
on the stroller and the other on the
It was Tuesday, July 10, 2018.
On the other side of the world, a
dozen youth soccer players had
been rescued from a flooded cave.
Washington was abuzz about a new
Supreme Court nominee named
Kavanaugh. Closer to home, the
Indians were getting ready to take
on the Reds.
Within minutes, Hayward’s
world would turn upside down.
Outside his window, smoke billowed
from the sky, obscuring his view
of the school’s playground. Soon,
an alarm sounded. Hayward,
who was on the phone with an
administrative colleague, ended the
call and grabbed his laptop, student
placement cards and, as he had been
instructed, his emergency operations
manual. By the time he hit the street
he saw flames shooting from the
school’s roof. Sirens, at first distant,
grew louder and more ominous.
Before long, the bright orange
flames began to lick the dazzling
blue sky, and dark-gray smoke
began to choke the neighborhood.
Behind the police tape, children,
parents, and neighbors lined the
sidewalks, tears streaming from their
shocked faces. Within minutes, they
would bring water and snacks out
to the firefighters. Lorene Rider, a
49-year resident of Shaker and an
administrative assistant at Fernway,
42 FALL 2020 | WWW.SHAKER.LIFE
eased her sedan down Ardmore Road and pulled to the curb, staring in
disbelief. “Oh my God,” she sobbed.
Firefighters from 20 communities helped the Shaker Fire Department
fight the blaze for hours, dumping 300,000 gallons of water on the inferno.
Thankfully, no one was hurt, although several firefighters were affected
by the heavy smoke and heat. So thorough was the response by the
firefighters that they even rescued the school’s four pets – two turtles, a
snake and a tarantula, although a black film of soot floated on the water in
the turtles’ aquarium.
A two-month fire department investigation concluded that the fire was
accidental and likely caused by a blowtorch the roofers were using on the
roof, which ignited wood.
“In terms of volume, loss, size, and impact on the community, it was
the biggest fire I’ve been involved with,” says Shaker Heights Fire Chief Pat
Sweeney. “It’s something I’ll never forget. This was a very dangerous fire. We
were just fortunate no one was hurt.”