PORTSMOUTH — Local, state and federal authorities are investigating an early morning fire at the city’s middle school that was intentionally set, said Fire Chief Todd Germain.
Police Chief Robert Merner said a suspect was seen on surveillance video.
“The person was shielding themselves on the school video,” he said, “but we have other sources. We have a full team out right now working the leads.”
The fire at the 155 Parrott Ave. school was reported Saturday, May 23 at 3:19 a.m., and firefighters were alerted by an alarm activation, Germain said. When firefighters arrived from Station 1, flames were extending out the front door of the main entrance foyer, he said.
A few hours later, the front door was propped open and charred black. Patrol officers and detectives secured the scene with yellow crime scene tape, including a nearby area with a charred propane tank that would be used for an outdoor grill.
Assisting with the investigation, Germain said, is the state fire marshal’s office and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
Germain said the fire was quickly extinguished and automatic fire sprinklers kept the fire contained to the room of origin. He said “accelerants and other evidence were found on scene and secured as evidence.”
An estimated $100,000 in damage was caused by the arson, according to the fire chief.
Merner said he did not know yet how close they are to an arrest.
“We are working with the state fire marshal’s office,” Merner said. “Right now, today, it’s mostly police legwork as we follow up on leads.
A $40 million-plus expansion and renovation of Portsmouth Middle School was finished in 2015.
Anyone with information is encouraged to call Police Capt. Darrin Sargent at (603) 610-7549. Anonymous tips can be made through Seacoast Crime Stoppers by calling (603) 431-1199 or via seacoastcrimestoppers.com.
Reporter Karen Dandurant contributed to this report.