Fifth suspicious fire since August started at Randallstown High School

January 20, 1995|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Mary Maushard contributed to this article.

A small fire broke out yesterday in a boys' locker room at Randallstown High School, the fifth suspicious fire at the school since August.

No one was injured, but $200 worth of property in the locker was damaged, a Baltimore County Fire Department spokesman said.

Fire officials could not say if the latest fire is connected to fires set in August, November and December. Battalion Chief Mark F. Hubbard, the spokesman, said fire and police arson investigators, with the cooperation of school officials, are interviewing students and faculty.

A former student was charged in a November fire but no other arrests have been made.

Yesterday, firefighters went to the school in the 4000 block of Offutt Road about 10 a.m. after a fire was discovered in a locker by a school employee, Chief Hubbard said. By the time they arrived, the employee had put the fire out with an extinguisher and pulled the alarm to evacuate the school, he said.

"We have no suspects yet," Chief Hubbard said. "What's making it so difficult is the large school population of 1,300 people. There's a lot of people to interview.

"There's also no pattern to these fires. Some have been set in trash cans, some have been in closets. The fires have also happened during different times of the day. There's no set motive . . . They just seem to be random malicious events."

The first fire occurred Aug. 26 when someone broke a window near a locker room, poured gasoline inside and ignited the liquid. Property damage was limited to about $500.

Firefighters were called on Nov. 2 for a fire in the girls' locker room and again the next day when fires broke out in a toilet paper dispenser in the boys' bathroom and in a trash can in a girls' bathroom. Both fires caused smoke and water damage, and two teachers were treated for smoke inhalation in the Nov. 3 incident.

On Nov. 29, authorities arrested a 16-year-old girl -- a former student -- and charged her as a juvenile with first-degree arson in the Nov. 2 fire.

On Dec. 12, a fourth fire was discovered by electricians working in the building after school hours. The fire was confined to a large closet in a first-floor music room where choir robes, sheet music and paper products were stored. About $3,000 in damage was done.

Paper that was set ablaze started the last three fires, officials said.

Principal Clark Powell refused to comment yesterday. School system spokesman Charles Herndon said a group of parents and teachers will be formed to look into what more can be done in and around the school in regard to safety.

Mr. Powell is considering harsher penalties for students found with lighters or matches, Mr. Herndon said.

More staff members are monitoring the halls, access has been cut to parts of the building students don't normally use, a limited number of hall passes are being issued and security has been tightened on those entering the building, he said.

"He's trying to handle this the best he knows how," Mr. Herndon said.

Metro Crime Stoppers is offering a reward of up to $2,000 for any information leading to an arrest.

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