Students face charges in career center fire

A teacher wasn’t in the room when the fire started.



CANFIELD — Investigators have charged a 19-year-old man with obstructing official business, and expect to charge a 17-year-old girl in the fire that caused an estimated $4.5 million in damage at Mahoning County Career and Technical Center.

The May 4 fire began in the interactive multimedia room in the northwest wing of the main building of the school on Palmyra Road. Firefighters from several area departments responded.

Authorities from the state fire marshal’s office, city police and the Cardinal Joint Fire District conducted the investigation, which is ongoing.

The fire started with an open flame caused by “an intentional human act,” said city police Sgt. Cristobal Ruiz.

A cigarette lighter produced the flame that ignited the vapors from a bucket of cleaning solvent, causing the blaze.

Kyle Layne, 19, of Homeworth Road, Alliance, is accused of not providing accurate information during the investigation.

A pretrial hearing in Mahoning County Area Court is set for Aug. 1.

More charges expected

Ruiz said that a 17-year-old girl from South Range High School is expected to be charged this week with obstructing official business and criminal damaging/endangering. Those charges will be filed in Mahoning County Juvenile Court.

Both were students in the school’s interactive multimedia program and graduated last month.

Ruiz wouldn’t elaborate on the girl’s motive for lighting the fire, saying the investigation is ongoing.

MCCTC Superintendent Roan Craig said that lighters are prohibited in the school and there isn’t a serious smoking problem on the campus.

“It’s disheartening, and we are most disappointed that our own students are facing charges in this incident,” Craig said.

School officials initially had said that the teacher was in the classroom at the time the fire erupted, but during a news conference Tuesday, Ruiz said there wasn’t a teacher present.

What happens now

Craig said the school is reviewing the situation. She declined to elaborate, saying it’s a personnel matter.

“There was a teacher assigned to the classroom at the time,” Craig said. She said that neither of the two graduates had been in trouble in school.

The school is expected to reopen in the fall although the northwest wing will remain closed. Classes that had been housed in that area — interactive multimedia, English, social studies, math and the adult education department — will be moved to other parts of the building.

The school hopes to have that wing rebuilt in fall 2008.

Craig pointed to all of the accomplishments and awards of MCCTC students. Most don’t cause problems.

“I would hate for the entire student body to be colored with that brush,” Craig said. “We have wonderful students.”

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