Arsonist ignites toilet paper at Southwest High School

two guards suffer smoke inhalation

May 30, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

Southwest High School administrators are searching for the student or students responsible for a fire that caused damage to a bathroom on the campus and injured two employees.

Southwest Principal Joe Evangelist said two full-time security guards at the El Centro campus suffered smoke inhalation while extinguishing the fire that burned a toilet paper dispenser.

Evangelist said someone set a roll of toilet paper on fire in one of the stalls inside a boys' bathroom Wednesday. He said the fire was reported around 8:40 a.m. by a teacher whose classroom is next to the bathroom.


The campus was evacuated and Evangelist said, "Everything went smoothly. The campus was evacuated without any panic. People stayed out of the way and the fire was put out in a matter of minutes."

The security guards, Mike Gutierrez and Frank Martinez, rushed into the bathroom searching for any students. Martinez took a fire extinguisher with him.

While inside the bathroom, according to Evangelist, Martinez kneeled to see where the fire was burning. He said the bathroom was black with smoke but Martinez found the fire and put it out with the extinguisher.

The fire was extinguished before the El Centro Fire Department arrived.

The security guards later started feeling sick and were taken to the El Centro Regional Medical Center by another Southwest staffer. Martinez and Gutierrez came back to the campus a couple hours later to finish their day's work.

"They're dedicated guys, thinking of the students first and paid a little bit for their efforts," said Evangelist.

The fire burned the toilet paper dispenser and caused minor smoke damage to the rest of the bathroom.

As for the person responsible,. Evangelist said campus officials are investigating a few leads they have received.

"We're taking this very seriously," he said.

The person found responsible will face expulsion, he said.

"We certainly need to send out a message that we won't tolerate that type of stuff," he said.

>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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