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Middle school is torched

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December 16, 2002

Albany-  Investigators are now certain that someone intentionally started the early morning fire at Dougherty Middle School. They think the culprit broke into an emergency exit at the school around 12:30AM, when the burglar alarm sounded.

School security showed up about 15 minutes later. But, it wasn't until more than an hour after that when firefighters were called to the school, already in flames. 

Using shovels and bins, firefighters threw out hundreds of burnt, now soggy, schoolbooks-- the substance that fed the fire. "We found no evidence of flammable liquid, more evidence of something on them at the time, a lighter or a match or a cigarette," said Chief James Carswell of the Albany Fire Dept.

Investigators say someone set fire to 172 boxes of schoolbooks in the sixth grade wing. The culprit pried open this remote emergency door to the hallway, set the fire and escaped.

School security showed up at the school around 12:45, but fire officials did not get word of a fire until 2AM when a passerby called police.

School officials say they are investigating the matter. But, teachers and adminstrators are thankful the fire did not do more damage. "I'm just so happy its not worse. I was expecting, I thought the school would be in flames, it was alot of smoke," said Principal Billy Brown. "We're very positive, some way, some how, we will get information on who did this." 

Most of the damage, contained to a section of the sixth grade hallway, is smoke damage and will be repaired. Cleanup is underway, and school will reopen Tuesday morning.

Dougherty Middle School will be open Tuesday and Wednesday. Students and teachers will also have to report Thursday until noon to make up for the lost school day.

posted at 4:56PM by dave.miller@walb.com