Five small fires set in high school in December

Posted: Sunday, February 01, 2004

Juneau-Douglas High School teachers are watching the halls more carefully as authorities try to identify whoever has been setting fires there.

The school had five small fires in December, said city Fire Marshal Rich Etheridge. The latest was on Dec. 28.

No one has been hurt, and damage has been minimal. But each time, officials have evacuated the 1,600-student school.

"If one of these fires does get entrenched in the building, kids could be at risk," Etheridge said.

The fires have been set in trash cans, damaging the container, a toilet paper dispenser and some floor tiles, he said. In some cases, school staff has put out the fire before firefighters arrive.

At first, Capital City Fire & Rescue responded to the school with one fire engine and an ambulance, together manned by four people, Etheridge said. Now it will respond to fires at JDHS with a fire engine, a ladder truck in case firefighters need exterior access to third-floor classrooms, and an ambulance, he said. The department will call out all available professional and volunteer firefighters, he said.

"We are concerned," said Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan, "and we are working with the police department, the fire department and the fire marshal."

Teachers are limiting the number of students allowed in hallways during classes, keeping good records of attendance and tardiness so they know who is in the building, and watching for suspicious behavior, Cowan said.

The school is locking exterior doors in areas that aren't under adult supervision. Students still can exit from those doors.

Etheridge said some evidence has been sent to the state crime lab in Anchorage. He asked for people to call in tips to the police or fire departments.

• Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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