TWO teen-agers arrested in Oktaha High School fire

Wednesday, July 11th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Revenge may be the motive behind a fire that destroyed much of Oktaha High School last week, authorities said.

Two teen-age boys will appear in court Wednesday to answer complaints of arson, conspiracy to commit arson and burning a public building, Darrin Smith, chief deputy with the Muskogee County Sheriff's Office, said. The boys' names were not released.

The 17-year-old and his 15-year-old accomplice are accused of lighting the fuse on a high-powered firework inside the school July 2.

The pair broke into the school with an ``artillery shell'' firework and lit it in a secretary's office, investigators allege.

``I've got three eyewitnesses and one witness who corroborated the other three stories,'' Smith said. ``They're all juveniles.''

Four juveniles left a nearby home and began walking toward the school, he said. Two went to one juvenile's home across from the school, while the two accused teens continued on to the school, Smith said.

``They saw them go up to the school, heard glass break and then heard a boom,'' Smith said of the witnesses. ``They saw sparks fly out of the school and then the two suspects come running by.''

The older boy may have set the fire in retaliation for being dismissed from class during the spring semester. The boy was sent home after an altercation with a teacher, Smith said.

The firework used was a high-powered explosive that can be purchased at many stands during the holiday season, officials said. Authorities believe the firework was purchased at a stand in Muskogee.

``When it comes off, it's supposed to shoot way up in the air and emit lots of flame and sparks,'' Smith said.

The fire caused about $500,000 in damage to seven classrooms and two offices in the southern Muskogee County district, according to reports.

Smith said he doesn't think the building can be repaired in time for the start of Aug. 15 classes.

The state Department of Education has loaned the district several portable classrooms to help Oktaha school officials stay on schedule.