Terroristic threat charge for boy accused of igniting West High bathroom fire

thanlon@adn.comNovember 27, 2013 

An ambulance leaves West High School after a fire in a bathroom forced students and faculty to evacuate the school on Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. A male student was later charged with setting the blaze, authorities said.

TEGAN HANLON — Anchorage Daily News / adn.com

A toilet paper torch that sent a boy's bathroom up in smoke at West High School on Wednesday morning resulted in serious charges for a male student, police said.

A 15-year-old freshman boy was charged as a minor and faces a second-degree criminally negligent burning charge, a misdemeanor, and a first-degree terroristic threatening charge, a felony, said police spokeswoman Jennifer Castro.

A person can receive a terroristic threatening charge if he or she causes the evacuation of a building, according to Alaska law.

Anchorage firefighters responded to West High School at 1700 Hillcrest Drive after alarms sounded around 10:57 a.m.

The flames, which started in a plastic toilet paper holder connected to a tile wall, were doused when the automatic sprinkler system activated, dispatchers said.

Eleven units responded to the scene and smoke could be seen seeping out of the first-floor bathroom door about 150 feet away from one of the school's side entrances, said fire Capt. Chad Richardson. No students were injured by the fire or smoke inhalation, according to Heather Roach, spokeswoman with Anchorage School District. Students and staff were briefly evacuated onto the street and then were relocated to a neighboring middle school and West High's auditorium.

When firefighters opened the door to the bathroom, they were hit with a floor-to-ceiling wall of smoke, limiting visibility, Richardson said.

"It was basically like closing your eyes."

Richardson said the melted dispenser had fallen from the wall. Crews broke off tile and used a thermal imaging camera to check if the blaze had spread, he said, but it had not.

"Schools aren't built to burn," Richardson said.

The fire and smoke damage was isolated to the dispenser tile wall but the steam produced by the sprinkler hitting the hot air caused additional destruction.

"The bathroom is pretty well damaged," he said.

Reach Tegan Hanlon at thanlon@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

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