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Mack Closed Following Fire

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A burglar's frustration over a lacK oí available loot or a panic attempt lo cover clues probably triggered arson which caused thousands of dollars damage at Mack School Saturday night and prevented the school from opening today. That assessment of the fire at the eleI mentary school at 920 Miller Ave. was given today by Pólice Chief Walter E. Krasny as four of his detectives worked with Ann Arbor Fire Chief Arthur (next page please) MACK CLOSED FOLLOWING FIRE (continued) Stauch and firè irispectors on the case. Stauch said the fire loss could exceed $20,000. "First of all, it was an incident of first class vandalism," Krasny said. "There was no reason whatsoever for most of , the damage done to school property before the fire was set." I Assistant Fire Chief Fred Schmid and I Battalion Chief Paul Wenk led a forcé of Il8 firefighters manning five pieces of lequipment to the near west side school lat 7:40 p.m. Saturdáy. A resident of the f neighborhood called the Fire Department af ter spotting ñames roaring out ■of windows in the first floor business I office on the east side of the school. Principal LeRoy Cappaert, who spent most of Saturday night and all day yesterday at the fire-ravaged offices, said he had driven by the school 30 minutes before the flames were reported. He said nothing seemed amiss at that time. Fire Inspector Benjamin Zahn Jr. said the fire was started in the business office. Fire Chief Stauch noted the clock in the business office stopped at 7:28 and other clocks in the area had stopped at I approximately the same time. He said I this would match the estimated time it I would take for fire to burn through wirI ing in the office aiea f rom the moment I the arsonist set the blaze. "But before the fire was set the people I who set it roamed through numerous I rooms, damaging just about everything in their path," Chief Krasny said. "The damage was widespread and senseless." Desks were overturned, glass panelingl in unlocked doors was smashed and a large aquarium containing dozens of valuable fish purchased by a teacher was broken, releasing the water and killing the fish. The prowlers apparently used a piek axe found at the scène to force all but one hinge off a heavy metal door leading to the school's business office where the fire started, Chief Krasny said. The; prowlers then probably used the axe and a sledge hammer, also found at the! scène, to rip off the door of a small safe i on the north wall of the business office, the chief said. But the safe, containing only a few school papers, yielded nothing of value to the intruders. It was apparently at that point that they decided to set the toren to tbyï office, pólice reported. Although Fire Inspector Zahn and City Pólice Detective Sgt. Gregory Katopodis, an arson specialist, say it has not been determined what was used to set the blaze, it is known the fire was started near the opened safe in the business office. The mangled door of the safe was found later at the end of an east-west hallway some distance from the business office. Battalion Chief Wenk and Assistant Chief Schmid said the concrete ceiling of the business office and the compact nature of the room apparently contained the initial fire set by the prowlI ers for some time. Fire Inspector Zahn estimated the blaze was burning for 35 l minutes before the flames were seen i and an alarm sounded. When heat from the small initial fire I had built up to a "flash" point in the I office, papers, books, records and oth[_er_ combustibles apparently burst into llame almost simultaneously, Fire Inspector Zahn said. Firemen and equipment from íire headquarters at E. Hurón St. and N. Fifth Ave. were on the scène moments after the alarm was received. Flames were shooting up out of the windows of the business office and magnesium i which encased two electric typewriters I near the windows was burning I hot, firefighters said. When the I riesium was hit by water from firemen's I hoses it "exploded," sending flaming I metal in all directions. Firefighters had to use smoke masks I as they stumbled through clouds of I dense smoke which rolled throagh the I east side entry hall to the school. A I i stairway just outside the business I fice acted as a chimney, sending the I billowing smoke pouring into second I floor hallways and classrooms. A 25-mile-an-hour wind from the I west did not hinder firemen, although I firefighters noted that had the blaze I occurred at the west end of the school I the strong breeze would have whipped I flames throughout the building. Fast work by the firemen on the scène I brought the raging flames under control I in about 15 minutes, Assistant Chief I Schmid said. Firefighters and their equipment ieft I the scène 70 minutes after the alarm I sounded. Behind them they Ieft a I out business office which had I tained school records going back I decades. A door leading from the I iness office to Principal Cáppaert's I office was1 burned through. Most of the I records in Cappaert's office appeared I unsalvageable. The heat in the principal's I office was so intense that a recording I machine wa -nelted flat. In addition, photographic slides which I Principal Cappaert had taken of school I activities in the past year were warped I and burned inside their containers. The entire public address system for I the school, the duplicating machine kept I in the business office and the wiring for I the operation of bells in the building I were destroyed in the fire. The two I magnesium-covered electric typewriters I in the office were only a tangle ofl scorched keys and metal after the fire I and desks in the office were virtuallyl burned in half. Firefighters noted that had a 1 up door from the business office tol another room been burned through, firstl floor damage would have been evenl more extensive. Actual fire damage wasl confined to the business office and Prin-I cipal Cappaert's office, although work-l men must now wash and repaint almost I all walls in second and third floor hallways which were blacken by smoke. The 23-room Mack School was erected exactly 50 years ago and has been I renovated several times over the years. An estimated 425 children, pre-school through sixth grade, attend the school which is located on Miller Ave. near S. Seventh St. Cappaert spent most of yesterday at the school with dozens of workmen and volunteer helpers, attempting to clean up debris and repair vandalism caused by the arsonists. John Hubley, assistant to the superintendent for community services, said insurance adjusters were scheduled to inspect the school today. Classes at the school were canceled today but cipal Cappaert said it is hoped school I can be resumed tomorrow. Fire inspectors said workmen will be permitted to board off the fire-damaged section of the building temporarily in order that classes may be resumed as soon as possible.