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Monday, May 20 2013 01:05 PM

School canceled at Bakersfield High after small explosions

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    By Californian file photo

    A Bakersfield Fire Department Hazardous Materials Team responds to an incident in this May 2013 file photo.

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By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN

Classes were canceled at Bakersfield High School Monday after three small bottle bomb explosions struck campus, authorities said.

No injuries or damage to buildings were reported but at about 1 p.m., officials announced they were canceling the rest of the school day and urged parents to pick up their children at 14th and F streets at 1:30 p.m.

Police briefly questioned one suspect before releasing him or her, and were looking for a second, according to Michaela Beard, spokeswoman for the Bakersfield Police Department.

No warrants had been issued as of Monday afternoon.

The school was on lockdown from 11:33 a.m. until classes were dismissed. A Bakersfield Fire Department hazmat crew, the Bakersfield Police Department and

Kern High School District police were investigating the incident.

It wasn’t clear what chemicals were used to create the explosions, said Anthony Galagaza, battalion chief for the Bakersfield Fire Department.

Kern High School District spokesman John Teves said the device used was “a plastic water bottle, water, and a common household chemical such as baking powder. Once the bottle is sealed tight, the chemical and the water react, producing pressure. It is only a matter of time before the bottle explodes.”

Authorities were first notified of an explosion at 11:09 a.m. Someone reported a noise outside the science building.

Shortly after that, there was an explosion inside a downstairs boys restroom inside Warren Hall. Then there was a third explosion outside the industrial arts building.

The buildings are not close to each other.

BHS Principal David Reese described the incident as likely “pranks with water bottles in trash cans.”

BHS will be on a regular schedule Tuesday, he added.

Freshman Ally Russell, 14, said she had just finished lunch and was on her way to her next class when she heard the announcement on the intercom system that the school was going on lockdown. Everyone around her groaned, but she was frightened.

“At first I was like, ‘Oh, God, it’s a man with a gun. We are all going to die,’ “ she said.

Nyah McDowell, 14, also a freshman, said she asked immediately if the announcement was a drill.

“They said no, it wasn’t a drill, it was the real thing,” she said. “I wasn’t too worried when I heard about the bombs. I just figured it was a bunch of kids trying to be funny.”

Parents, on the other hand, took the news very seriously. Some were very nervous as they waited on a narrow street behind the school to pick up their children.

Sandra Baker, 54, happened to be near BHS after the blasts because she was bringing her daughter a lunch she had forgotten.

“I saw all these police cars and fire trucks and I texted my daughter asking her if she was on lockdown,” she said. “She answered back, ‘Lockdown? No, LOL,’ and I said, ‘No, seriously, I think you’re on lockdown,’ and then sure enough, I heard it over the loudspeaker.”

Baker said she found the whole thing unsettling, but praised authorities for responding quickly and notifying parents right away.

“I think they did a good job, but it’s very nervewracking,” Baker said. “I’ve never seen so many parents picking up kids here all at the same time.”

Firefighters declared the campus safe about 1:44 p.m.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact the Bakersfield Police Department at 327-7111.

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