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Gainesville High School campus fire ruled arson
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Officials inspect damage to a modular building Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, at the Gainesville High School's Ninth Grade Center. - photo by Scott Rogers

Gainesville Fire officials confirmed on Wednesday, Feb. 27, that arson was the cause of a fire that destroyed a modular unit behind the Ninth Grade Center on the Gainesville High School campus last week.

“It has been determined that the cause of the fire was the result of arson,” Gainesville Fire Marshal Chad Payne said in a press release. “All other causes of the fire have been ruled out.”

Video surveillance had led school officials to immediately believe arson was to blame for the blaze set in the early morning of Feb. 21.

“We are looking for two people of interest that were seen near the structure shortly before and after the fire started,” Payne said. “At this time, we have a very vague description of these subjects. We have evidence that has been sent to the (Georgia Bureau of Investigation) crime lab to be processed and should have the results back soon.”

A reward of up to $10,000 is available for anyone providing information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the suspects responsible.

“At this time, we are asking for anyone that may have any information call the Georgia Arson Control at 1-800-282-5804,” Payne said.

According to Payne, the fire alarm in the modular unit was working and the fire was extinguished quickly.

The modular unit had most recently been used by Lanier Technical College as a GED study and testing center, as well as for continuing education programs.

Gainesville City Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said last week that the long-term plan was to demolish the modular unit to better centralize campus activities. The Ninth Grade Center is located on a hill behind the high school’s main campus and accessed from a different road during school hours.

Scrapping the unit was likely a few years away, however, and the unit might have been used for some Gainesville High activities in the interim.

Now, though, plans to demolish the unit have been expedited.

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