A fire that damaged a small portion of a mobile classroom at a Niles elementary school is being investigated as malicious in nature.
The fire was reported just after midnight, Aug. 21 at Mark Twain School, 9401 Hamlin Ave., hours before the new school year began.
Niles Fire Chief Steve Borkowski said the flames caused damage to the exterior wood siding on the classroom trailer and a wooden step, but the fire did not extend into the trailer’s interior. He estimated damage at approximately $1,100.
Borkowski said the cause of the fire is under investigation and appears to have been maliciously set.
“From what I could observe, it looked like somebody was burning something in a plastic bottle and it burned through to the wooden step it was sitting on and the flames caught the siding on fire,” said East Maine School District 63 Superintendent Scott Clay.
Clay said a section of siding of the trailer had to be removed. District maintenance staff were able to clean up the area and repair the damage, Principal Nichole Gross wrote in an e-mail to parents.
Clay explained that the mobile classroom unit is not used during the school day, but after-school activities provided through the district’s Total Learning Community (TLC) program are housed there.
The fire did not impact the ability for the mobile classroom to be used by TLC, he added.
The structure has, in the past, attracted graffiti and within the last month people have been congregating behind the classroom and leaving bottles behind, Clay said.
“Probably the most likely solution will be to put some cameras back there and a notification that there are cameras,” he said, expressing hope this will discourage loitering and property damage.
Niles police have also been asked to increase patrols around the school when classes are not in session.