High school evacuated in small fire

April 29, 1991

A fire of suspicious origin was discovered near the gymnasium of Howard High School in Columbia today and interrupted classes for an hour, fire officials said.

Firefighters responding to an alarm shortly before 8 a.m. found two foam rubber mats ablaze in a storage area underneath a porch outside the gym, said Battalion Chief Donald Howell of Howard County. The track and field mats were of the kind used for high jumps.

Kathy Johnston, 42, a teacher at the school in the 8700 block of Annapolis Road, received minor hand injuries while trying to put out the blaze with a fire extinguisher, Howell said.

She was treated at the scene by emergency workers and told officials she would seek further treatment on her own.

Students were evacuated and were able to return an hour later. Howell said students would not be able to use the gym for a while because of the soot covering the area. The fire caused an estimated $45,000 in damage.

Officials labeled the fire suspicious. The state fire marshal's office is investigating.

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