Bay District Schools holds press conference following bonfire explosion incident

Bay District Schools holds press conference following bonfire explosion incident.
Bay District Schools holds press conference following bonfire explosion incident.(WJHG)
Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 10:39 PM CDT
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) -Students at Mosley High School are recalling a 50-year-old high school tradition that went terribly wrong Wednesday evening. The homecoming bonfire exploded.

“I took off running because all I saw was a wall of fire and I didn’t know if there was a breeze or anything or if was going to hit us. So I dipped,” Ray West an 11th Grader.

Ray told NewsChannel 7 she had been to a homecoming bonfire before. When we asked her what was different this year she said, “There was an explosion that was pretty different.”

Following the incident, videos were shared across social media, which got people asking what happened.

Bay District School Officials held a press conference Thursday morning and gave the following statement regarding the bonfire:

“We’d like to start by noting how incredibly grateful we are that our customary safety protocols ensured no students were standing adjacent to the bonfire at the time it was lit. We are also very happy to report that our deputy was unharmed in the explosion, even though the videos might indicate otherwise. And, before we go on to discuss what we’ve learned from this, we would also like to apologize to all of those who were disturbed by the explosion last night. We know that was very frightening for many of our students, staff and for neighbors who live close to the school, and we are very sorry for all of that.

Bonfires at high school homecoming events have been a part of our schools for at least the last 50 years. They are always conducted in conjunction with law enforcement and fire departments, and safety is always paramount. Last night’s bonfire was constructed the same way it has been for decades. As recently as yesterday, we checked in with area first responders who coordinate this with us each year to ensure we had done everything needed to proceed, and we were given permission to go ahead. We are aware that residents are being asked to exercise caution while burning yard debris etc., and we believe that the on-site presence of both law enforcement and firefighters added to our existing safety protocols for the protection of our students, our campus, and our community.

Even though last night’s situation was definitely a worst-case scenario for us, our standard safety protocols and the availability of first responders on the scene ensured that no one was hurt and that the fire was quickly contained. Safety is always our number one priority, however, so we have made the decision to prohibit any bonfires, or similar events, on any of our campuses going forward.

Again, we are incredibly grateful that no one was harmed last night and that first responders quickly eliminated any fire threat from the bonfire. The homecoming bonfire has been a wonderful tradition for generations of students and while we’re saddened to see that tradition end, we will always make decisions that err on the side of caution when it comes to safety.”

NewsChannel 7, did ask Bay District Schools what fuel was used for the fire. We were told, “the same fuel they have always used.”

“Like I said the fire was constructed in the same manner it has been for many many years and the methods that are used by the officials that constructed the fire vary from school to school. I am not certain what methods that they used I cannot answer that,” Josh Balkom, Executive Director of Operations, BDS, said.

One question still remains unanswered, what caused the bonfire to explode?