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Arson suspected in minor Paul Kane fire

Students were sent home Thursday afternoon from Paul Kane High School, following a small fire investigators believe was deliberately set. The fire was discovered around noon on Thursday. The school was evacuated within minutes.

Students were sent home Thursday afternoon from Paul Kane High School, following a small fire investigators believe was deliberately set.

The fire was discovered around noon on Thursday. The school was evacuated within minutes.

Incident commander Capt. Bernd Gretzinger with the St Albert Fire Department said when they arrived on scene, all of the students were already outside.

“The school was evacuated and we did a reconnaissance to make sure everyone was out.”

The fire was small and contained to a boys' washroom near the school's front entrance.

Gretzinger said the smoke spread throughout the school even though the fire was contained in a small area.

“There was thick heavy black smoke and damage throughout the school.”

Inside the bathroom, ash coated the walls and fixtures and several ceiling tiles were also burned in the blaze.

Principal Larry Dyck said school was cancelled because the smell of smoke could have been irritating — though not harmful — for some students and it seemed prudent.

“It was done totally as a precaution.”

Less than an hour after the fire, Dyck said the school board had already contacted clean-up crews and was confident the school would be open Friday morning.

“There are people here now and they will get under way as soon as the investigators are finished.”

Classes resumed Friday.

Gretzinger said the fire was being investigated as arson and he estimated the damage at under $10,000.

Dyck said he would also be looking into the fire to try and determine which student was responsible. Dyck said the school has never had a deliberately set fire before and had a fire drill earlier Thursday morning that he believed might have been related.

On Friday RCMP Const. Janice Schoepp confirmed the detachment was investigating the blaze as arson and said they had not yet identified any suspects.

She said the blaze appears to have been started when someone lit a roll of toilet paper on fire, burning both the roll and melting the plastic dispenser, which caused the heavy smoke.

Anyone with any information on the case can contact the St. Albert RCMP at 780-458-7700 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477)