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2 More Teens Surrender in Series of Fires Set at Escondido Schools

Times Staff Writer

Two more Escondido teen-agers have surrendered to police in connection with four school fires that caused more than $1 million in damage at three Escondido schools within the past two weeks.

Parents of a 16-year-old Valley Continuation High School student surrendered their daughter to police Monday night. The girl has been taken to Juvenile Hall in San Diego, where she is being held on suspicion of involvement in two fires set Saturday night at Del Dios Middle School and Orange Glen High School.

On Tuesday, a fourth arson suspect, a 17-year-old boy also from Valley High, a school for problem students, was taken to police headquarters by his parents. He is implicated in a March 10 fire and burglary at an Escondido High School trailer only, according to Lt. Earl Callander, Escondido police spokesman. He said the parents of the youths were contacted by police and told to take them to the Escondido police station.

Two other teen-age boys were arrested at their homes by police Monday and will be charged with three felony arson counts in three school fires that occurred within three hours last Saturday night.

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Callander said the two original suspects, who are scheduled for hearings in Juvenile Court today, may face more counts in connection with the March 10 burglary and fire at an Escondido High outbuilding. Damages in the earlier fire first were estimated at $15,000 and later revised to $55,000.

The Escondido police detective would not comment on the source of the information that led to the arrests of the latest two suspects Monday night and Tuesday.

Callander also refused to comment on whether other suspects are being sought in the school arsons that destroyed the theater arts part of the Escondido High multipurpose room and damaged other areas of the building, as well as gutting three classrooms and damaging others at Orange Glen High and damaging a portable classroom at Del Dios Middle School.

“It has been generally established that boredom was the main motive for the three fires last Saturday,” Callander said. The March 10 fire, he said, involved a burglary and has been linked by physical evidence with the fires set at the three schools last Saturday.

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Meanwhile, students and faculty at Escondido High won quick approval Wednesday from the Escondido City Council to use the new City Hall to stage a black-tie gala May 23 to climax a fund-raising effort for restoration of the dramatic arts facility at the school.

About 20 dramatic arts students from the school, led by John L. Cooper, district superintendent, and Escondido High staff members Donna McArdle and Jane Rattmann, told council members that planning for the “rise from the ashes” drive began before embers cooled from the Saturday night fire that did more than $750,000 damage to the combined cafeteria and theater arts building.

Offers of aid have come from all segments of the Escondido community, from Lawrence Welk Village, from the community’s sister city of Vista and elsewhere, McArdle said.

Ashes for Sale

The fund raising will start April 18 and will include sale of the ashes from the destroyed multipurpose building, an idea that came from restoration drives after the Mt. St. Helens disaster, McArdle said. (Entrepreneurs sold ash after the Mt. St. Helens volcano erupted in Oregon several years ago.)

Offers of talent donations for the fund-raiser, including a North County group, are being gratefully accepted, McArdle said, “but the night belongs to the students who are behind this whole thing.”

May 23 was chosen for the final fund-raiser because it is the 60th anniversary of the fire in l929 that destroyed an earlier Escondido high school. At that time, there were 52 students in the school, McArdle said. Now there are more than 1,500.

Cooper said the fire damage at the two high schools is covered by the district’s insurance, but that there is a $10,000 deductible amount on each fire plus the cost of replacing some of the contents that were not covered by insurance.

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The aim of the student effort is to completely restore the theater arts program and facilities at Escondido High, he said.


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