Flammable Liquid Used in School Fire: Investigators

An early estimate puts the damage near $600,000 according to firefighters

By Kelly McPherson and R. Stickney
|  Tuesday, Jan 17, 2012  |  Updated 9:55 PM PDT
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An elementary school in University Heights will be closed after a suspicious fire.

An elementary school in University Heights will be closed after a suspicious fire.

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Suspicious Fire Damages School

San Diego police stood guard outside Alice Birney Elementary School on Campus Avenue. Just before midnight, fire broke out inside the kitchen of a large common room connected to the school's auditorium. Kelly McPherson reports.
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An elementary school in University Heights will be closed Tuesday after a suspicious fire.

Fire investigators were on scene at Alice Birney Elementary School on Campus Avenue, looking for what caused the fire that damaged the after-school room, kitchen and auditorium.

Just before midnight, fire broke out 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.

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 will reopen Wednesday, according to San Diego Unified School District.

She said the message to the students will be one of resilience.

"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."

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