Local News

Employee Charged In Arson of Fayetteville School

Posted May 29, 2001

— A school employee was arrested Monday afternoon, charged with setting an overnight fire at a Fayetteville high school that caused millions of dollars in damage.

Cumberland County deputies say Shawn Joseph Barnes, 31, an administrative assistant to the principal atPine Forest Senior High School, set the fire.

Barnes is charged with Burning of a Schoolhouse and is being held in the Cumberland County Jail under a secured bond.

Fifty Fayetteville firefighters were called out to the fire around 3 a.m. Monday. Crews were able to extinguish the fire within 30 minutes, and continued to put out hot spots throughout the morning.

Investigators believe the fire started in a room adjacent to an art room near the back of the school. Smoke quickly filled the halls and surrounding classrooms.

According to investigators, the art room is a total loss, and there is some damage to a classroom above it on the second floor. There is smoke damage throughout the school. Damage is estimated at between $2 million and $2.5 million.

Cleanup is under way, but it will not be easy. Concrete chunks have fallen from the roof, and structural damage is extensive. The school will remain closed for the rest of the year.

Classes have been cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Students will return to Pine Forest Middle School on Thursday to take their end-of-grade tests from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Middle school students will end their school day at 1:08 p.m. beginning May 30 for the remainder of the school year.

For test schedules and other information,click here.

Monday's fire is the fifth major fire at a Cumberland County school in the past seven years.

In November 1999, two Cape Fear High School students pleaded guilty to setting fire to their school. That fire caused about $750,000 in damage.

Last April, the gymnasium of the Berean Baptist Academy was gutted by fire. Investigators say a faulty light switch caused the blaze.

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