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Published: Thursday, 1/12/2006

Fires at Sherman School force 800 into the cold

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Students wait outside Sherman Elementary School as smoke from two small blazes is expelled. The fires started nearly simultaneously in two boys' restrooms. 'We believe that it's a student who did this,' Toledo Public Schools chief of staff John Foley said. After 30 minutes, the children were moved to portable classrooms and TARTA buses. Students wait outside Sherman Elementary School as smoke from two small blazes is expelled. The fires started nearly simultaneously in two boys' restrooms. 'We believe that it's a student who did this,' Toledo Public Schools chief of staff John Foley said. After 30 minutes, the children were moved to portable classrooms and TARTA buses.
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Two small fires set yesterday at Toledo's Sherman Elementary School forced the evacuation of more than 800 students and staff members from the building.

Students were rushed out of the school about 10:15 a.m. and waited outside in the cold - many without coats - while the Toledo Fire Department used fans to air out the building,

No one was hurt, John Foley, Toledo Public Schools chief of staff, said.

"We believe that it's a student who did this," Mr. Foley said. "It's arson, and we will investigate it and prosecute any student or anyone found setting this fire."

The fires were set within minutes of one another in separate boys' restrooms - both on the school's second floor. One fire was started in a wastebasket; the other in a toilet stall. Smoke filled the second floor, firefighters said.

Students waited in the school parking lot while firefighters used gas-powered fans to clear the building of smoke. Mr. Foley said the exhaust from those fans began to accumulate in the building.

The district later brought electric fans to air out the building, he said.

Third-grade teacher Linda Wimberly, who did not have her coat and was wearing a short-sleeved blouse, huddled for warmth with her students.

"Yes, it was cold," she said. "Usually, we know that it's not real when the fire alarm goes off. But my kids have been so good."

After about 30 minutes outside, the children were moved into the school's portable classroom units or TARTA buses to stay warm.

Toledo police Sgt. Richard Murphy said there were no suspects. "This is very serious and very dangerous," he said.

School leaders stressed that all the children were safe, but said any parent who wished could remove his or her child from school.

About 100 students were taken home early.



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