Magnolia elementary school closed after fire damages school

Feb 13, 2023, 1:15 PM | Updated: 2:14 pm

elementary arson...

Classes at a Magnolia elementary school were canceled Monday after a fire broke out, and it appears that it was started intentionally. (Photo courtesy of the Seattle Police Department)

(Photo courtesy of the Seattle Police Department)

UPDATE 1:16 pm:

Police received a report about a man matching the suspect description just before 1 a.m. today. Officers searched the area and found the man walking westbound on West Dravus Street.

The 55-year-old male suspect was arrested for reckless burning and booked into King County Jail.

Original story:

Classes at Magnolia elementary school were canceled Monday after a fire broke out, and it appears that it was started intentionally.

Investigators say just before 7:30 p.m. Sunday, a witness reported seeing a man setting the fire near the entrance of Catharine Blaine K-8 and walking away.

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The suspect is described as a white man in his 30s with sandy brown shoulder-length hair and a shaggy brown beard. The suspect was last seen wearing a gray beanie, a girl’s purple coat with white stripes, and a girl’s black yoga pants.

The fire caused substantial damage to the school property, starting from the exterior and spreading into the interior before it was extinguished.

“Fire damage was limited to a storage area just inside the entrance, and there was no direct damage to any classrooms,” Patrick Gray, the Principal of Catharine Blaine K-8, said in a statement. “The majority of the impact is smoke related and is significant enough that district leaders and I have made the decision to cancel classes tomorrow in order to allow sufficient time for additional clean up and to ensure the building is safe and ready for students to return.”

Parents and students at the school told KIRO Newsradio they want answers as to what — or who — set the fire.“I was mainly wondering what the fire was about,” said Thijs Buning, a 7th grader at the school.His mother, Nichole Buning, said she’s unsettled that someone may have set the fire on purpose.Despite the witness’ reported statement, Seattle police told KIRO Newsradio the department is not officially declaring the fire to be arson as it’s not currently clear whether it was intentionally lit.On Monday afternoon, a spokesperson with Seattle Fire Department told KIRO Newsradio the cause is undetermined. A spokesperson with SPD said the investigation is ongoing.Photos from SPD’s crime blog show the damage done to the outside of the building, where authorities said it began, and burnt walls inside.Officials said the damage is estimated at $11,000.

Firefighters say most of the damage is from smoke. The cost of repair is unknown at this time.

School officials will be spending today cleaning up and ensuring the building is safe.

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