Police: Fire intentionally set at Walter G. Byers, school forced to close

Police: Fire intentionally set at Walter G. Byers, school forced to close

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Students at a school in Charlotte are being sent home after school officials say a fire was started in the bathroom.

Officials say the fire started in a bathroom at Walter G Byers School, a PreK-8 school, where the 8th graders go to class. The fire caused less than $4,000 in damages, and the school was evacuated Friday morning.

Administrators told WBTV students evacuated the building very orderly.

"Extremely smoothly," Project L.i.f.t. Director Denise Watts said. "We practice this once a month. That's a state law, so we just went right into that process and everybody knew exactly what to do."

According to police, the fire was intentionally set in a bathroom, and those suspected of setting it have been detained. Their names have not been released.

Fire officials said that, despite the fact the damage was contained to the bathroom, it was best to evacuate the school and stop classes.

"The school did have smoke in it," Charlotte Chief Fire Investigator Paul Wilkinson said. "So we advised them it would be best to let CMS clean that area, the school and have the air handling system and the filters and stuff changed."

Parents were called to pick up their kids. They rushed to the school.

"At first I was kind of upset and scared," parent Ryan Davis said. "Because [with] a fire, anything can happen."

Students smelled the smoke while they were in class and they became concerned.

"I saw all the kids running down the hall," Student Akoiae Cureton said. "And I knew something was wrong. Am I going to get hurt or something?"

A note was sent to parents at the school by Charlotte-Mecklenburg School officials.

This morning there was a fire in a bathroom at the school. All students and staff are safe and have been evacuated from the school building. No students will return to the school building today," officials stated in the note. "We are instituting a dismissal process. Your child's teacher will call you to discuss dismissal options for your child."

Investigators are still gathering information about exactly what happened. WBTV is told an accelerant was used. There is no word yet what punishment the student will face for allegedly starting the fire.

"You don't want any kid to be out of school," parent Keiana McClain said. "But I mean, if you are doing things like this, then you deserve to be expelled."

Crews will spend the weekend cleaning the school. Charlotte Mecklenburg School (CMS) leaders say Walter G. Byers will be open Monday.

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