Two young girls taken into custody for Gasquet blaze

August 21, 2001 11:00 pm

By Jennifer Grimes

Triplicate staff writer

Two female juveniles were arrested yesterday by Del Norte County Sheriffs Deputies in connection to the fire which destroyed Gasquets Mountain School.

Sheriffs Detective Pat Martin said its likely other juveniles will also face charges for causing the fire.

The investigation is in no way ended. Other people will be interviewed, said Sheriff Jim Maready.

Mountain School caught fire about 12:30 a.m. last Friday destroying three classrooms, restrooms, a kitchenette and a covered play area.

The 64 kindergarten through eighth grade students served there will be displaced for about a year while the school is rebuilt.

Gasquet Fire Chief Buzz Parlasca said the fire likely started in the covered play area.

Detectives were led to the female suspects by witnesses. They were arrested based on their own admissions of being at Mountain School shortly before the fire started, according to Martin.

The girls are being held at the Del Norte County Juvenile Detention Center and will soon go before a judge, Martin said.

Their names, ages and the charges against them are being kept confidential because they are juveniles.

Sheriffs officials are also holding information on how the fire was started and how many more suspects will be interviewed.

Weve got to keep things close to the vest until its all drawn out and the investigation is done, Maready said.

The department did say that with the help of Gasquet citizens, arson investigator Don Brooks of the California Department of Forestry and several deputies, the investigation has gone very smoothly and quickly.

School district officials meanwhile have been busy making plans to accommodate students.

Del Norte County Unified School District officials, parents and teachers on Monday unanimously voted to keep their students in their own community rather than bus them to Crescent City for the school year.

After talking with staff and community members, it was decided that the best education was not just about the classroom, but keeping the community together, said Deputy Superintendent Rodney Jahn.

Jahn said three existing portable classrooms at the school site will be used for just about everything the school needs.

The district will also make use of Gasquet Bible Church for a kindergarten and first grade class.

Plans for a new school have not been decided on yet. But Jahn said the district does have full-coverage on the old one.

The full cost of replacing it is 100-percent covered. And so are some of the interim costs like providing extra equipment to get us through this next year, Jahn said.

Although there is a $10,000 deductible on the districts insurance, the policy should cover costs of sending another portable classroom there as well as portable restrooms and some supplies for the teachers to get ready for the year, according to Jahn.