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INDIANAPOLIS–A group of people in the Cub Scouts program were getting fire safety training when a fire started at St. Jude Catholic School Monday night on the southeast side of Indianapolis. 

The Indianapolis Fire Department (IFD) was called to the school on McFarland Road, which is near the intersection of Thompson Road and Interstate 65. 

30 adults and 19 children, who are in the Cub Scouts program at St. Jude, were in the cafeteria for the fire safety session. They had just completed a Stop, Drop and Roll exercise when a kindergartner told the troop leader he smelled smoke.  

“He said, ‘Hey I see smoke’ and they all looked up and said ‘yeah, you’re right’, so they all evacuated,” said Rita Reith, Indianapolis Fire Department Battalion Chief. “So the kids were able to get a first-hand look at what happens when, unexpectedly, something causes you to need to evacuate and they did everything correctly.” 

Everyone made it out of the church. No one was hurt. IFD says the fire was caused by spontaneous combustion of a pile of decorative straw in the storage area. Reith says that doesn’t happen often, but it can happen if the straw becomes wet. The fire left a hole in the roof and a couple of windows broken. 

St. Jude enrolls students from preschool to eighth grade and is adjacent to Roncalli High School. St. Jude’s principal said the school would be closed Tuesday for grades K-8 but is expected to reopen Wednesday after the damage is cleaned up. Preschool and Pre-K classes will be held as normal on Tuesday. 

Reith says this incident is a reminder to always have a fire escape plan. 

“Knowing two ways out, an evacuation plan and meeting place is the most vital part of any fire safety plan. Talking through that plan and then practicing it, should be a part of every family’s conversation and as proven tonight – a quick part of any meeting when occupying a public space.  Fire can and does happen at any time and anywhere,” Reith said. 

(PHOTO: Indianapolis Fire Department)