LUMBERTON — Students at Lumberton High School were evacuated into the gym this morning as Lumberton firefighters worked to clear the building of smoke from a fire that was set to a trash can in an upstairs bathroom.
Lumberton police Capt. Johnny Barnes said that firefighters and police arrived at about 8:15 a.m. and moved students out of the school’s G ward.
“They evacuated everyone into the gym until they got it cleaned up and the smoke cleared out,” he said. “It just more or less smoked up that side of the building.”
According to Barnes, there was no damage except to the trashcan. At about 8:30 a.m., Barnes said school resource officers were trying to find the culprit.
Though the fire may have allowed students catch a brief break from class, sheriff’s Lt. Brian Duckworth, the county’s arson investigator, said that setting fire to something in an occupied building is an act that carries a punishment much worse than sitting through a boring lecture or taking a test.
“If it melted the trashcan, that would be burning of personal property,” he said. “If it damaged the building at any point, if it burnt into a wall or anything like that and the school was occupied, it would be first-degree arson.”
On Sept. 28 a student lit paper towels on fire and put them in a trash can in an upstairs bathroom at about 1 p.m. A custodian found the fire and it was immediately put out. The school was evacuated that day and students sent home early.