Media Center fire at East Lake

Taylor Rowland, Staff Writer

East Lake High School is normally a quiet, calm high school where nothing too bad happens. On October 19, 2010 that all changed when at 1:53, a fire started.

In upstairs building 4 near the library someone allegedly lit a fire in the paper towel dispenser. There was smoke filling the hallway. It was pitch black and impossible to see through.

The fire alarm rang at 1:53 just as students were getting to their lockers to get their books to leave. The students believed it was a drill or just a malfunction with the fire alarm. Students wandered in the hallway unaware of the situation at hand. Students just meandered to their lockers and ignored the fire alarm and waited for it to stop. Teachers told the students to evacuate and then they realized that it was more serious then they knew.

Senior Caitlyn Smith saw the smoke first hand and said, “It was so black you couldn’t see down the hallway. I realized that this was more serious than most students realized.”

Three fire trucks arrived at the scene which made the students realize what a serious situation it really was.  The library is blocked off because of the smoke. Night cleaning crews have been called in and are working through the weekend to clean and dust every book and ceiling tile. They hope to re-open the library on Monday.

Deputy Terry O’Reilly requested that teachers come down to his office and review the security camera footage to see if anyone could identify the culprit. The suspect has been identified as a 15 year old freshman. The footage showed him entering the boys’ restroom and three minutes later he left with a trail of smoke following him. He had no accomplices; footage showed he was alone entering the restroom. During interviews with the student, deputies said they saw small burns on his arm.

The student has been taken to the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center and the investigation remains open.  He has been charged with first degree felony arson.