May 30, 2020

Waldo technical school fire ruled intentional

WALDO — The state Fire Marshal’s Office has confirmed that last week’s fire at the Waldo County Technical Center was set.

Investigator Kenneth Grimes said Monday that the fire in the vocational school’s photography darkroom was definitely an “intentional human element fire.”

There have been no arrests and Grimes declined to provide details as to how the fire was set or discuss the fire marshal’s investigation.

“We’re not 100 percent sure how it was set,” he said. “We’re still conducting interviews.”

Grimes said Thursday’s fire started when a person set fire to the felt tar paper siding covering the dark room. The free-standing room is within a larger room. The fire was discovered by staff at 9:06 a.m. and was quickly brought under control by teachers using fire extinguishers. A teacher and student were hospitalized briefly for inhalation of the chemical powders expelled by the fire extinguishers.

“It’s a dry chemical but not dangerous,” Grimes said. “It can cause some irritation.”

Grimes said that damage to the darkroom was minimal. Smoke caused additional damage to surrounding areas.

The darkroom is located in a section of the building that houses the horticulture program. There were no students using the room at the time the fire was reported.

Students were evacuated from the building the moment the fire was detected and classes were canceled for the rest of the day. The Waldo Fire Department took control of the scene and cleared the building of smoke.

Grimes also confirmed that fire investigators conducted a complete inspection of the vocational school. That report has yet to be filed, he said.

Attempts Monday to reach technical center Director Paul Cochran were unsuccessful.

The fire was the third reported at local schools in the past few weeks. Authorities are also conducting investigations into two fires they believe were set at the Belfast Area High School last month.

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