SIMI VALLEY : School Bleachers Closed After Fire

A section of bleachers at Simi Valley High School will be closed until inspectors decide whether an arson fire has caused structural damage, school administrators said Thursday.

The fire, reported at 5:48 p.m. Wednesday by neighbors of the school at 5400 Cochrane St., was ignited in a pile of pole vault mats stored under the bleachers, Ventura County Fire Department dispatcher Vicki Crabtree said.

Flames destroyed part of 14 rows of the bleachers and scorched much of the rest before 20 firefighters were able to contain the blaze, Crabtree said. There was no damage to the school itself.

Investigators' preliminary estimate of damage to the bleachers was $14,000, Crabtree said, while the pole vault mats were worth $6,000.

Dr. Mary Beth Wolford, deputy superintendent of the Simi Valley Unified School District, said the district's property liability insurance should cover replacement of the mats and repairs on the bleachers, but the $5,000 deductible will have to come from school district coffers.

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