Fires force high school to send students home early Carver incident called arson by school officials

December 03, 1998|By Peter Hermann and Liz Bowie | Peter Hermann and Liz Bowie,SUN STAFF

At least two small fires that forced a West Baltimore high school to close yesterday, sending students home early, were the work of an arsonist, school officials said.

No injuries were reported in the afternoon fires at Carver Vocational-Technical High School. But smoke filled the gymnasium, where about 60 students were playing basketball.

"Smoke was just coming out of the vents," said Tiesha Maynor, 15, a 10th-grader. "We got out before the room filled up."

The school's 1,350 students were quickly evacuated about 1: 30 p.m. to an athletic field and a city park adjacent to the building in the 2200 block of Presstman St. They were sent home about 2: 45 p.m., 40 minutes early.

"There was a lot of smoke but not much damage," said Battalion Chief Edward Schaeffer. "But it was enough to close down the school because of smoke and water damage."

School officials said classes will start on time today.

Fire officials released few details on how the fires started. Inspector Michael Maybin, a Fire Department spokesman, said several fires were set in the gym, including a storage area between the ceiling and the roof.

Maybin said investigators have not determined how the fires started. School Police Chief Leonard Hamm said an Oct. 27 fire in Carver's carpentry storeroom also was set and caused minimal damage to some wood. No arrests have been made in the incidents.

Vanessa Pyatt, a school system spokeswoman, said yesterday's fires -- which she said have been ruled arson -- caused an estimated $3,000 in damage. She said one of the fires started in a stairway above the gym, which is on the east side of the school.

The school system has been troubled by fires this year. Two bathroom fires at Northern High School forced students to leave twice in September and caused about $2,000 in damage. Investigators at the time said they believed both had been set by one person; no arrests have been made.

And several small fires at Southern High School have occurred in trash cans, and ceiling tiles and on bulletin boards. Hamm said two students were expelled from Southern for setting fires.

The chief said yesterday's fire at Carver was the most serious this year, and the first blaze that firefighters had to extinguish. He said the others had been put out by students or staff or had burned out before firefighters arrived.

Pub Date: 12/03/98

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