School fire ruled arson - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School fire ruled arson

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February 16, 2004

Hahira - Investigators say a fire that destroyed a South Georgia school over the weekend was the work of an arsonist.

More than 70 firefighters battled the blazes at the old Hahira Middle School for hours, but it was no use. A pile of smoldering ashes is all that's left of the building. "It's something that can't be replaced, and its gone," said John Thursby.

State fire investigators spent the day sifting through the ashes to find out what started the blazes. Chief Dwight Bennett says he suspected arson all along. "The building didn't have any electricity of water running to it so that raises a red flag of suspicion," said Bennett.

For people living in this small town, the school was a historical landmark. "We played football there as the Hahira Tigers," said Thursby.

Thursby says the person who set the fire took a priceless gift from this community. "We need to make every effort to find them and punish them to the fullest extreme," said Thursby.

The old school had been vacant for more than three years, but the city of Hahira was only weeks away from acquiring the property from the Lowndes County school system. "We'd talked about putting the fire department, police and public works department there and even moving the courthouse there because it had so much room," said Thursby.

But now, what little is left of the school will most likely be torn down. "It's heartbreaking," said Thursby.

A reward of up to $10,000.00 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the arsonist.

posted at 3:30PM by ashley.harper@walb.com