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Crime & Courts

Wasilla Christian school loses 3 buses in fire linked to fuel theft

A weekend fire started by a fuel thief destroyed all three buses operated by a Wasilla Christian school, officials there say.

A surveillance camera captured images of someone stealing fuel from a Wasilla Lake Christian School bus around 3 a.m. Saturday, Principal Cheralea Purcell said Monday. The man, wearing a hoodie, jeans and what looked like sunglasses, walked off with a full gas can and came back to fill a second.

Instead, he started a fire that spread quickly, Purcell said. "He tried for a few seconds to put it out. I'd be shocked if he wasn't burned."

The man ran off, she said. Within minutes, flames engulfed the school's three buses — including a large bus the school just got and insured last week and had yet to be used.

Good afternoon to our Rams families and supporters. Early Saturday morning someone tried to steal fuel from our small...

Posted by Wasilla Lake Christian School on Sunday, June 3, 2018

It's not clear how the fire started, Purcell said.

Anyone with information about the fire can contact Officer Skiba at Wasilla Police Department at 907-352-5401.

There are no suspects at this time, Wasilla police spokeswoman Amanda Graham said.

The buses are a total loss, so officials are trying to secure at least one bus to take students to events in the upcoming sports seasons. Soccer practices start in July.

The large bus was insured, Purcell said. The school is waiting for the result of that claim before they can get another bus.

The gas theft was not the first for the school with about 110 students on Palmer-Wasilla Highway, the principal said. Staff have taken the buses at least three times to get anti-theft measures like locking gas caps.

Purcell said fire crews extinguished the fire before it reached school facilities. Central Mat-Su Fire Department responded to the school.

"We are certainly glad nobody was hurt and that the building itself was spared," she said. "It could have been a lot worse."

Donation accounts have been set up at Wells Fargo under "Wasilla Lake School Donation" and through GoFundMe.

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