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Teacher fired after putting fire out

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Updated: 7/19/2013 11:03 am

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Michelle Hammack was fired Wednesday from her teaching job at the Little Temples Childcare facility in Arlington.

It all started when Hammack smelled burning chicken nuggets from her nearby classroom.

"I just leaned over and peeked around and there was a fire in the oven, and I ran in there and opened it to try to put it out, and the fire alarm started going off."

Hammack says she rushed back to her classroom and woke up her napping students. She then took all of the children outside.

While other teachers did a head count, Hammack says she went back for a second check to make sure no other children were inside.

"When I got to the third classroom by the kitchen, I could see that it was just a contained fire in the oven."

So Hammack says she put it out, before the fire trucks arrived, but instead of being thanked, she got a pink slip hours later.

"I fired her only because she left her room," explained the facility owner Olga Rozhaov.

Rozhaov says Hammack broke strict protocol when she left her class alone.

"Even though children are sleeping, the teachers are supposed to be there."

Rozhaov took Action News on a tour of the facility. We didn't smell smoke, but found light smoke damage around the oven. Hammack believes it could have been much worse.

"It probably would have progressed had it not been put out before that."

Being fired, Hammack says, isn't fair.

"I didn't start the fire. I put it out."

But Rozhaov believes she made the right decision.

"It's not acceptable, and if anybody else does the same thing, I will fire again. I will fire them. No question."

The Department of Children and Families is investigating.

The JFRD confirms oven fire was extinguished by an employee Wednesday. The initial automatic alarm call was received at 12:42 p.m. Firefighters were on the scene at 12:47 p.m., and determined the facility was safe for students and teachers to enter again 13 minutes later.

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