SALEM — The Greenhouse School dodged a bullet yesterday when a fire in an adjacent building was quickly extinguished.
The school was not damaged, and there were no injuries.
Over the past two years, the year-round, independent, K-8 school, which operates inside a former greenhouse, has also survived a burglary and flood.
"It comes in threes — flood, theft and fire," said Danny Welch, co-director of The Greenhouse School. "I think we're done for the next decade."
A school official heard an alarm shortly after 10 a.m. yesterday and discovered the rear porch on fire at 143 Loring Ave., a house next to the school where Welch and his wife reside.
Julia Nambalirwa-Luggude, co-director of the school, and a friend grabbed a hose and fire extinguisher and began battling the blaze in the rear of the house.
They "definitely slowed it down," Deputy fire Chief Gerry Giunta said.
A crew from Engine 5 arrived minutes later and extinguished the blaze, which was largely contained to the porch. Flames were visible as firefighters began pulling away the building's siding.
"We were lucky to stop it quickly," Giunta said. "It didn't make it into the main body of the house."
Firefighters were on the scene for two hours.
The interior of the house suffered smoke damage, and Welch said they did not plan to stay there last night.
The cause of the fire has not been determined. Fire Lt. Tim Flynn is investigating.
"I believe it started on the outside of the building and worked its way into the structure," the deputy said.
Welch believes the fire started in dry brush near the back porch.
"It started outside," he said. "We don't know actually how. ... We have no clues what the ignition source was. The tinder was the undergrowth."
Although there was smoke damage, he said the fire did not get into their apartment or into a school storage area.
"The house would have completely gone if Julia hadn't caught it when she did," he said. "We would have lost the house."
Welch said the Fire Department "did an incredible job."
He also credited his late mother, Patricia Jennings-Welch, who founded the alternative school in 1983 and died three years ago.
"I think maybe my mother's spirit is watching out for us," he said.