HHS fire ruled arson
Source of blaze still unknown
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Arson is the cause of a fire that resulted in moderate damage to the J. C. Pettey Center at Hartselle High School on Saturday night, according to Hartselle Fire Chief Steve Shelton.
He said the investigation is continuing and his department is working closely with Hartselle Police Department and the State Fire Marshall’s office to apprehend whoever committed the crime.
The fire was reported about 11:15 p.m. by a woman who lives on Comer Street. Firefighters arrived about 10 minutes later and found flames four to six feet high inside the ticket booth, a small, self-contained room located at the gym’s main entrance.
Physical education classes were moved from the gym to the Sittason Center as a temporary measure.
“Cleaning crews will be working in the gym and band room this week and it should be back in operation by next week,” Principal Jerry Reeves said.
Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed said he has talked with the school’s insurance carrier and
has been assured that prompt steps will be taken to remove the smoke residue and odor from the facility.
Shelton said all entrances to the Pettey center were secure when firefighters arrived. Plus, the inner door to the ticket booth was locked on the inside.
Shelton said the ticket booth contained combustible materials such as cardboard boxes, programs and tickets. Flammable paint thinner and cleaning supplies were also stored in the same room but the fire didn’t reach them.
Two residents in the neighborhood reported seeing motor vehicles in the vicinity of the gym about the time the fire was reported, Shelton said.
Working the fire were 12 firefighters, using two engine companies and an aerial truck. They were on the scene until 4:30 a.m. The area was cordoned off and secured until the initial investigation, which included a state fire marshal, was completed at about 1 p.m. on Sunday.