Fire suspect in police custody

Published 1:22 am Thursday, January 19, 2012

An industrial air purifier deployed by a post-fire restoration company does its work Wednesday afternoon following a fire at P.S. Jones Middle School near Washington. (WDN Photo/Vail Stewart Rumley)

Daily News Staff
A juvenile was in police custody Wednesday following a fire that resulted in the evacuation of staff and students from P.S. Jones Middle School.
The school is located off Market Street Extension north of Washington.
Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS Department turned over investigation of the fire to the Washington Police Department, said fire Chief Robbie Rose.
It appeared the fire, which broke out in a restroom early Wednesday morning, was intentionally set by the juvenile, according to police Chief Mick Reed.
“Given the age of the child we really don’t have a motive,” Reed reported.
Reed said he was comfortable the police department had identified “those involved, but the investigation will continue.”
The fire caused minor damage confined mostly the restroom, Rose related.
First responders were dispatched to the fire a little after 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Upon arrival, 12 firefighters and EMS workers were met with moderate smoke in one wing of the building, Rose said.
No injuries were reported.
Rose praised school officials for evacuating staff and about 817 students in orderly fashion.
“I think the school did an excellent job on their evacuation,” he said.
Sarah Hodges, spokeswoman for Beaufort County Schools, echoed the praise.
“The school administration, everybody did a great job today — especially the kids,” Hodges said. “We were able to stay in touch with parents throughout the events.”
The school system sent text and voice-mail messages to parents via its Alert Now system.
P.S. Jones’ students were evacuated to neighboring John Small Elementary School until the middle school was cleared for their return, Hodges said.
“I was very, very pleased and impressed with the kids,” said P.S. Jones principal Tracy Nixon. “They did a really great job.”
The school’s eight-grade students were displaced for the day, but most of the students were able to return to their classrooms by 10:05 a.m., Nixon said.
She credited fire drills for the students’ uneventful evacuation.
“Because we practiced this they were able to go right through with no problems,” she commented.
Nixon added an incident of this type had “never happened before” at P.S. Jones.
“I’ve been here 13 years and I’ve never had this happen,” she said. “I feel like it was an isolated incident.”
Police were unable to release further details Wednesday.