Arson Suspected In School Fire

Friday, March 7th 2008, 1:37 pm
By: News On 6

A West Tulsa school was evacuated on Friday afternoon, after a fire in classroom. The News On 6's Emory Bryan reports investigators say it was arson. The evacuation took only a few minutes and no children were hurt.

Investigators with the fire department say a 14-year-old boy started the fire in a trash can.

Fire trucks surrounded Clinton Middle School at 2224 W 41st Street in Tulsa after the principal reported that a classroom was on fire.

"So when I looked in and saw smoke, I immediately called the fire department and notified the office to evacuate as quickly as possible," said Clinton Middle School Principal John Autry.

The students were evacuating as firefighters arrived.

"We let them know it wasn't a fire drill it was the real thing, we need to get out," said Susan Michaels with the School Registrar.

Clinton has 420 students in 6th through 8th grades, who were evacuated within minutes. Some students were at lunch and some were already outside when the alarm sounded.

"We have to get the students so many feet away from the building. So, we just followed procedures as the alarm goes off. So, we didn't know there was an actual fire at the time," said Teacher Annette Thompson.

The fire department reported the fire started in a trash can in a classroom. Several rooms had water and smoke damage and the room where it started was heavily damaged by fire.

"Where the fire started, it's pretty crisp where the fire started," said Bob LeBass, with Tulsa Public Schools.

The room where the fire was set is on the second level. The library is just steps away and it was filled with smoke.

"We could smell it, actually when we started walking out we could start smelling smoke," said Melinda Gallagher, School Librarian.

The superintendent arrived and decided to have the students bussed to nearby Webster High School. Firefighters were working to clear out the smoke while investigators worked to gather evidence of what they say was arson.

No students were hurt and the fire department credited the school with teaching students what to do in case of fire.

"They activated that alarm system and everybody knew where to go and how to get there," said Captain Larry Bowles with the Tulsa Fire Department.

The school district sent out an automated phone message to parents letting them know about the fire and that students had been moved to Webster.

Classes will resume Monday at Clinton.