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Bret Harte wing burns
Bret Harte fire
Flames destroy a wing of Bret Harte Elementary School in south Modesto on Friday. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

A Friday afternoon blaze that swept through a northern wing at Bret Harte Elementary School in south Modesto caused an estimated $1.5 million damage.

The school library, a computer lab and two fifth-grade classrooms were destroyed in the fire, which broke out just before 4 p.m. The origins of the fire have not been ascertained.

By the time Modesto and Ceres firefighters arrived at the Glenn Avenue school, the wing was fully engulfed in flames. They successfully protected the fire from spreading but an adjacent wing sustained heat and smoke damage.

Bret Harte administrators Vanessa Platt and Gustavo Duran said the staff is "devastated" by the fire but had staff "working to make sure we will be ready for ALL students to return on Tuesday, Jan. 16." They urged persons to stay away from the campus to allow the campus to be readied for students' return.

Modesto City Schools spokeswoman Becky Fortuna issued the following statement regarding the fire: "While we are certain our insurance will replace everything lost in the fire, if people would like to donate library books appropriate for kindergarten through sixth grade, in English and Spanish, and basic school supplies like pencils, paper, notebooks and erasers for the two fifth grade classrooms, we would be grateful and put them to good use."

Books and school supplies may be dropped off at the Modesto City Schools office, 426 Locust St., Modesto, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays beginning tomorrow.