A general-alarm fire swept through Norwood Junior High School last night, threatening to destroy the four-story brick building. There were no injuries.

The blaze was punctuated by an explosion of chemical supplies in a science laboratory. Firemen from Norwood and nine surrounding communities responded.

Smoke was so thick that the first firemen to respond were driven from the classroom in which the blaze appeared to have started on the third floor on the southwest comer of the building.

“We were blown the hell out of there.” Lt. William Turner of 248 Prospect st. said. “We had to get out on the ladder. The smoke was so thick I couldn’t see what happened.”

The fire was out of control at 10 p.m., two hours after the sounding of the general alarm. The first alarm was sounded at 7:45.

The cause and estimated damage were not immediately known. Authorities said the fire spread across the back of the building to the science lab.

The school, on Washington street, is across from Norwood Hospital, which was not threatened, although smoke drifted toward it.

Companies responded from Medfield, Needham, Dedham, Wrentham, Stoughton, Westwood, Sharon, Canton, Millis, West Bridgewater, and Walpole.

Automatic sprinklers reduced some damage in the basement and first floor. The blaze destroyed the third and fourth floors, causing the roof to collapse.

Edward L. Thomas, 45, of 15 Hoyle st. discovered the fire.

He said: “I smelled smoke, but I thought it was the chimney. I thought they were cleaning it or something. “Then I saw the reflections in the third-floor window, the reflection of the flames.”

Thomas turned in the alarm.

“I don’t know what the value of the building was, but the cost of replacement has got to be $1 million,” Norwood Deputy Chief Leo Coughlin said.

He said three-quarters of the school’s interior was destroyed, with the rest suffering severe smoke and water damage.

The brick and wood school, built in 1919, housed 750 students. Philip O. Coakley, the superintendent, said no arrangement had been made to continue classes. “We have no plans as yet. There is no alternative facility that I know of,” he said.

Coakley will meet today with School Committee Chairman Thomas Couch and principal John Corcoran to determine where classes can be held.

By John B. Wood Globe Staff

24 Jan 1971, Sun The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts)