An elementary school in University Heights is reopening Wednesday after firefighters say an arsonist caused about $600,000 in damage. Federal authorities are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
The after-school room, kitchen and auditorium were all damaged in the fire at Alice Birney Elementary School on Campus Avenue. The fire broke out just before midnight inside the kitchen of a large common room connected to the auditorium.
The inside and at least one facade were damaged. The auditorium also received smoke damage.
“It was called the Birney Buddies Room and it was a lovely little space where kids could come and play and figure out what school was all about. We're devastated. It was a brand new room and now it's all gone,” said Principal Amanda Hammond-Williams.
Fire investigators said a flammable liquid was used to start the fire. The liquid was still present when investigators entered the building.
The Metro Arson Strike Team is looking into whether this fire is related to recent fires in the area. Just a few blocks away there have been four fires or attempted arsons at the Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall.
"Potentially, yes, they could be connected, but we're not approaching this that way at this time because there's no reason, no evidence, no witness testimony, nothing whatsoever to connect the fire here with those at the church and the attempted one at the church," said fire spokesperson Maurice Luque.
The school reopened Wednesday.
“We need to get kids back in the classrooms. That’s the most important thing. The classrooms were not impacted,” said Hammond-Williams.
The message to the students will be one of resilience, according to the Principal.
"We tell them that bad things happen to good people and good schools," said Hammond-Williams. "We're resilient and we'll do some problem solving and we'll figure it out."
There is a request for supplies from the parents group at the school to replace all of the items lost in the fire.
Keep up to date on breaking news: Follow us on Twitter @nbcsandiego, fan us on Facebook, sign up for our breaking news e-mail alerts or text SDBREAKING to 622339 to receive text messages for local breaking news. (For more info, text HELP. To end, text STOP. Message and data rates may apply.)