Medical Lake police are searching for whoever rolled a half-full barrel of fuel oil next to a school building and set it ablaze Monday evening.
The fire caused minimal damage to the exterior of a portable building used by the ROTC unit at Medical Lake High School, said Neal Powell, superintendent for the Medical Lake School District.
Some siding and insulation were scorched, Powell said.
“There was little to no damage on the inside,” he said. “We’re really lucky it wasn’t worse.”
Medical Lake police officer Martin Lawrence helped to prevent the blaze from consuming the building and spreading to other 55-gallon drums stored nearby.
Lawrence said Tuesday he was on routine patrol when he spotted a column of smoke coming from the high school campus and pulled in to see what was happening.
The fire was just beginning to reach into the eaves on the outside of the building when he arrived, said Lawrence, who had a civilian observer riding with him.
“They must have just started it,” Lawrence said. “We tried to get the barrel away from the building, but the heat was just too intense.”
Minutes later, the school’s chief custodian arrived and pulled out several fire extinguishers that he and Lawrence used to keep the flames from spreading until firefighters showed up to put out the blaze.
Someone apparently rolled the barrel from a nearby stockpile and set it up against the building, Lawrence said. A trail of oil led from the ROTC building back to the other drums, he said.
Police suspect teenagers pulling a prank.
“It looks like it took at least two people,” Lawrence said. “We’re pursuing a couple angles at this time.”
Powell said the barrels contain heating oil siphoned from an underground storage tank on the school grounds. A contractor drained the oil recently while preparing to remove the large tank, which is no longer used.
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