By Summer Ballentine
Mason Times staff reporter
When the fire alarm went off Jan. 26 at Mason High School, senior Tori Martin barely had time to wash her hands before she rushed out of the bathroom and followed hundreds of her classmates outside to the football field.
“The first thought that came to mind was ‘Holy crap,’” Martin said. “My second thought was, ‘I hope nobody was hurt (and) what caused the fire?’”
About noon, a student lit several posters on fire in the hallway, Superintendent Mark Dillingham said. A custodian noticed the fire and put it out before pulling a fire alarm, Dillingham said. Fire trucks arrived several minutes later.
“Initially, we didn’t know (the fire had been put out already),” Fire Chief Kerry Minshall said. “I left in the command car right away and then we had an engine ladder truck (leave).”
After Minshall assessed the situation, he sent back two other fire trucks. The fire damaged ceiling tiles and filled the halls with smoke. The fire department used fans to blow the smoke from the building before students returned to classes, Minshall said.
“(We) were really very, very fortunate nothing worse happened,” Dillingham said.
The fire was set during the school lunch hour, which made exiting the building more complicated, he said.
For the most part, students were calm during the evacuation, Martin said.
“I think the community came together very well,” Dillingham said. “The fire, police and school personnel all came together.”
Police are investigating and the student will face a disciplinary hearing before the board of education, he said.
Students who commit arson on school grounds will face expulsion, according to the 2010-11 Mason High School Student/Parent Handbook.
The alleged arsonist knew the potential consequences of their action, Martin said. She said disciplinary action is appropriate.
“People know what fire is,” she said. “I think it was a really immature and irresponsible.”
The fire was unusual for Mason High School students, Martin said.
“We’re not really known for being violent,” she said. “We’re a pretty good bunch of kids. I think this was a pretty isolated (case).”