Bremerton School District Superintendent Aaron Leavell says an April 12 portable fire at Armin Jahr Elementary was the result of arson.
“The Bremerton Police Department basically has admitted it was arson,” said Leavell to board members during a May 1 meeting. “(The case) really will just sit there forever. The chances are slim to find the ones who started it.”
During the meeting, board members approved the purchase of a new portable to go in the former spot of the destroyed portable. The portable was used as a preschool classroom, stated district officials.
According to a Bremerton Police report obtained by the Patriot, Cencom received notification of a commercial fire alarm from 800 Dibb Street, the location of Armin Jahr Elementary School at 1:54 a.m. on April 12.
At 1:55 a.m., Bremerton Fire Department responded to the fire, which was at the northwest corner of the school. Flames on the exterior of the building reached from the ground to the roof, and “flames were spread around on the grass for about a 10-foot diameter from the corner of the building,” states the report.
Around 4 a.m., one of the firefighters noted he had seen two juveniles go into a gate at a white fence from the school yard. Two witnesses who were interviewed said they thought someone was having a bonfire until they heard the school alarms. One of the witnesses called 911, and stood outside their back gate until firefighters arrived.
A supplemental report was also provided about an officer who walked the trail between the school’s sports fields and Pine Ridge Apartments stopped and spoke with three individuals, two females and one male. When asked why they were outside, the trio told the officer they heard the fire alarm and “could smell the smoke from the school.”
The male told the officer he was smoking a cigarette on his balcony (which faces the school property) when he saw two males between the ages of 15 and 25 running westbound through the apartment parking lot.
He noted both had “similar medium builds” and one was slightly taller than the other. One wore khaki pants and a black hoodie with the hood pulled up, the other had corn rows, black pants and a black Dickies coat.
The portable is covered by the school district’s insurance, and during the meeting, the board unanimously approved the purchase of a new portable. The cost will be just over $136,000, according to Wayne Lindberg, director of finance and operations.
“We will be reimbursed,” Lindberg assured the board. “This will go on the insurance claim.”
The school district had coverage for $200,000, plus an additional $25,000 for contents which Lindberg said the district is “dealing with right now.”