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12th Suspected Arson in 13 Months : Fire Guts 4 Classrooms at Compton's Laurel School

April 07, 1985|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

COMPTON — An early morning fire gutted four classrooms at Laurel Elementary School on Thursday, bringing to 12 the number of suspected arson fires of Compton Unified School District buildings in the last 13 months.

The Laurel Elementary fire, which caused an estimated $400,000 in damage, followed by just nine days a $500,000 blaze that leveled six classrooms at Compton High School, said Associate Supt. Robert Sampieri. After the March fire, the school board approved a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those who set fire to school property, said Sampieri.

In addition, a Washington Elementary classroom worth $150,000 was destroyed when a rash of fires were set on that campus Jan. 24., he said.

District losses from arson fires since February, 1984, now total $1.35 million, according to school records. The total losses and number of fires are the greatest for any similar period in Compton in the last decade.

Like the district's other major arson blazes, the 1:10 a.m. fire at Laurel, a 450-student campus a mile west of Compton High, has produced no witnesses or suspects, said Fire Capt. Phillip Ewell.

"We got about three or four different names (of possible suspects) from people at the fire scene," said Ewell. "But that happens at every fire, and they're not really suspects."

Laurel's four fifth- and sixth-grade classes have been displaced by the fire, said Sampieri. Two classes will be shifted to vacant classrooms on campus, while the other two will be bused to nearby Bursch Elementary when students return from Easter vacation Monday, he said.

The school district maintains a 24-hour telephone number to its security offices at 631-4981 and 631-5910. School personnel Thursday were distributing pamphlets in Compton publicizing the series of arsons and providing information about the telephone hot line and the reward.

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