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No arrests school fires

June 26, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The investigation into fires deliberately set at two Chambersburg-area schools earlier this month has turned up several leads, but no arrests have been made.

Four separate fires were discovered burning inside and outside the Cumberland Valley Christian School in Hamilton Township at 4:21 a.m. June 5. Damage was estimated at $150,000, school and fire officials said.

Two days later, someone attempted to set a fire behind Falling Spring Elementary School, 1006 Falling Spring Road. The fire burned out, causing only minor damage, police said.

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Trooper Skip Sydnor, Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal with the Chambersburg barrack, said Monday he could not say yet whether the two arsons were related.

"What we are doing now is following leads and sorting out what is what," he said.

He said the department has received several calls and tips through the Crime Solvers program, which sometimes offers a reward for information.

Sydnor said he could not elaborate on the leads or if evidence indicates whether the fires were set by a juvenile or an adult.

The fire at the Cumberland Valley Christian School was spotted by a neighbor walking a dog near the school at 600 Miller St. Fire was found in the computer room in the rear of the school, in a storage trailer, outside a propane tank and in a pile of lumber being used for new construction.

There was little fire damage to the interior of the school, but heat melted the computers and destroyed the lab, Sydnor said.

Fire ruined the items in the storage trailer but did little other damage.

The Rev. Carl McKee, school principal, said he was thankful the outcome was not worse.

The June 5 fire was the second for the school in a week. Two days earlier, a fire was set in the back of the building where new construction is under way. That caused about $5,000 damage, McKee said.

The school, which is behind the Open Door Church, was closed for the summer at the time of the fire.

McKee said parents and students volunteered immediately to help with the cleanup, but that was not necessary because insurance covered the costs of a professional firm to restore the school.

"The smoke damage was dealt with and the textbooks that could be were cleaned," he said.

The cleaning should be completed by Friday, McKee said.

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