Local News

Arson Suspected at Cumberland High School

Posted April 9, 2008 5:25 a.m. EDT
Updated April 10, 2008 11:42 a.m. EDT

— An early morning fire that canceled classes at South View High School in Cumberland County on Wednesday appears to be arson, authorities said.

The fire started in the media center at about 3 a.m., shortly after someone broke out a window at the back of the building and set off the  school's burglar alarm, authorities said.

The fire was contained to the media center's front desk area, but some reference books and several computers were destroyed, school officials said. No injuries were reported.

An automated phone message was sent out to South View High's staff and 1,900 students before 6 a.m. to notify them the school would be closed.

School administrators plan to resume classes Thursday, although it could be two to three weeks before the media center can be used again, said Wanda McPhaul, spokeswoman for Cumberland County Schools

"We're busy trying to get things cleaned up. We've got 60 custodians working to try to get everything in place so we can have classes (Thursday)," McPhaul said.

Windows were opened throughout South View High to ventilate the school and remove the smoky odor.

"We will have to replace all of the ceiling in the media center (and) all the carpet. All the furniture will need to be cleaned," Assistant Superintendent Tim Kinlaw said.

Someone also attempted to set fire to a modular classroom, authorities said, noting they found a broken window and a burned floor mat inside.

"This is the fourth or fifth attempt to set fire (to) a school over the last eight years in Cumberland County,"  Kinlaw said. "It's just senseless. My guess is it's probably involving somebody that's teed off at the school because of something."

School administrators estimated the damage to South View High at $75,000.

Investigators with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office were reviewing videotape from a school security camera, which showed someone in the building at the time the fire was reported.

Authorities have declined to say how many people were depicted in the videotape or what was used to start the fire.