There were some tense moments at an elementary school in Brainerd shortly before noon on Friday when a fire was discovered. Chattanooga fire investigators were able to quickly identify the person believed responsible for starting the fire at Barger Academy.
Lt. Henry McElvain with the Fire Investigation Division took an 11-year-old boy into custody and charged him with aggravated arson. The boy is a student at Barger. Early this afternoon, Lt. McElvain transported the youth to the Juvenile Detention Center for processing.
The loss from the fire was estimated at $10,000. No injuries were reported. Captain Anthony Moore assisted with the investigation.
The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm at 11:46 a.m. and responded to Barger Academy of Fine Arts at 4808 Brainerd Road with six fire companies. Battalion Chief Fredrick Blake said that evacuation of the students and faculty was nearly complete when the first firefighters arrived on the scene.
Chief Blake said the firefighters located the fire in a boy’s bathroom. The volume of smoke was significant enough that the firefighters pulled out a hand-held hose line in preparation for a significant fire. Fortunately, it wasn’t needed. The firefighters carried in a couple of portable fire extinguishers and finished putting out the smoldering fire. No injuries were reported.
The fire damage was contained to the bathroom, but there was a lot of smoke and it spread throughout most of the school. Firefighters brought in high-powered fans to ventilate the building, but the cleanup was expected to take several hours, so the decision was made to cancel classes for the remainder of the day.
The fire appears to have been deliberately set. Lt. Henry McElvain with the Fire Investigation Division said it appears that someone started a fire in or near a paper towel dispenser in the bathroom. The investigation will continue. Chattanooga Police and Hamilton County EMS also provided assistance on the scene.