Maine Girl, 11, Charged With Arson After Setting Fire to School Bathrooms

Investigators say paper products were used to set the fires at Paris Elementary School

An 11-year-old Maine girl has been charged with arson after police say she set fire to two bathrooms at an elementary school.

The sixth-grader at Paris Elementary School was charged Tuesday by the state fire marshal's office and released to the custody of her parents.

The fires were reported at the school just before 9 a.m. One was in a bathroom on the main floor of the school and the other was on the lower level, according to Maine's Public Safety Department spokesperson Steve McCausland.

Investigators say paper products were used to set the fires and the building was evacuated with no injuries. The fire on the main floor went out by itself but the other one caused "moderate fire and smoke damage."

"Surface damage appeared to be to one of the stalls and a toilet paper dispenser," said Sgt. Kenneth Grimes, of the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office. "Burning plastic creates a toxic, dense smoke, so the majority of the damage is going to be the cleaning."

A cleaning company had multiple crews at the school on Thursday.

Richard Colpitts, superintendent for the Oxford Hills School District, which Paris Elementary School belongs to, said the ceiling in parts of the building has been completely removed in certain wings.

"The fifth and sixth grade wing will not be able to reopen next week," Colpitts said.

The students will have to go to a nearby farm and camp the school partners with which will facilitate learning while the wings are repaired.

"They're great partners, it's a great community," Colpitts said.

He called the incident something that's never happened in his 38-year career and "something you hope will never happen."

Students were allowed to go pick up supplies Thursday that had been left in their desks or lockers during the evacuation.

Faculty and staffed had retrieved the items, bagged and labelled them and brought them to the gym for the students.

Rachel McGarry was there with her fifth-grade daughter, Kaiah and Kaiah's friend Ava.

"There was an automated message from the school that said kids could come pick up their things today during school hours," said McGarry, who described the fire as an "alarming" situation which the teachers handled in a "wonderful" way.

Ava described the fire and as "scary" since she had spotted black smoke before fire alarms went off. She had alerted her teacher.

"One of my friends was bawling her eyes out," Ava said. "It was scary but not too bad though."

Both girls are trying to stay positive about the situation and hope the schoolmate accused of starting the fires learns a lesson.

"Just get help, find a way to be better, you can do better than that," Kaiah said.

Grimes says the girl has been summonsed but not arrested after turning herself in.

After speaking to the girl's family, Colpitts said they are also "concerned" about her behavior.

It's unclear if the girl could face additional charges beyond arson. It's also unclear when she could appear in juvenile court.

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