I think every kid at one point or another has a dream that their school catches on fire, maybe it’s the night before a big test or for me every-time I lit up one of those schoolhouse fireworks on the holidays. This ended up being so much greater than a dream one spring day in Grade 11. Halfway through English class which was beyond painful as it was reading day it started. Reading day was an experiment by our teacher who thought, it would be a great idea to have the class read Shakespeare out loud. Each student would read half a page. He assumed that it would make us more involved but since most of the class were idiots is was just horrible to sit through. I almost always skipped reading day but we had a quiz so I was forced to make it in.
Sound the alarm
The fire alarm kicked off and like usual we just sat there thinking it was a test or a false alarm. The secretary then came on over the loudspeaker and her voice was clearly shaking.
“Teachers please evacuate the students from the school, stay calm and proceed in an orderly fashion to the parking lot”
I remember thinking it was a little odd but this meant I could have a smoke so I leapt up and headed for the door. As we walked down the stairs past the second floor I noticed that you couldn’t see past the windows on the doors leading into the hallway. I walked over and opened the door, smoke poured out and I quickly shut it. That sent the packed stairwell into full panic mode as we all pushed and crawled our way down the stairs and out the door yelling “Fire!Fire!Fire!” As we got out into the parking lot you could see smoke rising from the top of the school as a sea of kids came flying out the doors. Our school has 2500 students so it was quite the sight. I remember seeing teachers carrying the mentally handicapped kids because the were really freaking out.
I decided I should try and find my friends and make sure they were ok so I headed around to the smoking pit behind the school. As I got back there I saw Kurt and Jim coming back from the woods across the field where they had gone to take a quick joint break. Kurt asked what was going on and I said “Dude the fucking school is on fire!”, “Jesus…” Kurt said “Jim let’s go get some digital scales”. Kurt and Jim then ran back into the school hoping the science dept. was unaffected, turns out the fire was between them and science dept so they were forced to retreat. They were however, spotted by a teacher which turned out to be an issue later on.
The crowd gathers to celebrate
Within about 10min all our friends had gathered in the front parking lot of the school along with about 1500 kids (everyone else was on the other side of the building). About 10 min after that the local news crew showed up and we all started doing the wave and cheering. This was like a dream come true, the school burning in front of our eyes, it was how I imagine it must feel when people pray for something that actually happens. BTW no one was hurt in the fire.
So when the fire was put out half the second floor of the school was gone and the smoke damage had destroyed pretty much all the computers and made the school uninhabitable until it was cleaned up. The hall of fame (30 years of trophy’s and sports accomplishments) was left in ruins as were about 15% of the students lockers. We got 3 full weeks off school until the cleanup was finished which was fucking amazing cause it was spring time.
Back to school; crimes and work erased.
When we got back to school we found out that any damages or lost property was the responsibility of the student (home insurance), luckily my locker was unaffected. Although I did (like almost everyone I knew) claim that all my school projects were in a friends locker and thus lost to time. Tyler and Eddie had been working a scam where they campaigned door-to-door for a cancer drive and kept all the donations that were in cash. The fire provided an easy explanation when it came time to hand in the kits the school and they had nothing.
Dear sir this was a case of arson!
We found out when we got back that the fire was an arson and the police were investigating. I was blown away that someone would have set the school on fire with all the kids inside. It turned out the school also had no fire detectors or sprinklers except in the two science department classrooms. The fire was only discovered when our gym teacher thought he heard a noise in the hallway, went outside, saw smoke and pulled the alarm.
Our friend Caddy only minutes before the fire started, lit a garbage can in the smoking pit on fire, then put it out. That act garnered him a suspension from school and a full on police investigation. Our Vice Principal had given a list of the worst kids to the police (which also happened to be all my friends). Over the next few weeks we got several visits from the cops and VP who were hoping one of us did it. Kurt got special attention as he had been seen wandering the school during the fire looking for shit to steal with Jim.
A big reward and the case is cracked
After 4 months and no leads the police issues a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest of the arsonist. Within 24 hours they had their man. 90210 was a pretty normal kid. He dressed way too preppy for our tastes thus the moniker. Turns out when the tip came in 90210 was already under arrest for another crime, he had broken into the Oakridge Beer Store late at night and stolen the promotional beer branded leather jackets, forgetting to wear a mask so he was spotted on the camera. Under questioning he quickly broke and confessed to the crime.
He had been hanging out at the school with some girls (he had dropped out about 3 months before so he didn’t actually attend the school anymore). They were sitting beside the gym on the second floor and he was setting the gym mats on fire…then putting them out… then setting them on fire…then putting then out.
After a while they got bored and decided to leave. 90210 thought the fire was out but underneath the mat it was still smoldering, about 10 min later it caught flame again and since the mats were piled to the ceiling it quickly spread over the whole floor.
Canada’s Young Offenders Act FTW!
The police wanted to charge him with multiple counts of attempted murder and arson but since he was 17 it got reduced to just the arson. He ended up getting 6 months in juvenile detention, six months in a half way house and three years of probation. Oh and also he wasn’t allowed to have a lighter or matches for a year, his record got sealed once he turned 18 and the newspapers were not allowed to print his name because he was under 18.
He was best friend with two brothers Phil and Mark and they used to hang out all the time. Phil and Mark were a little older than me (19) and both lived together in their own apartment on welfare. They subsidized the welfare with standard petty crimes and small time drug dealing.
A month after 90210 was arrested we went to a house party at Phil and Mark’s, their previously shitty apartment was now filled with a leather couch, big screen TV and video game consoles. It was pretty obvious who got the reward although none of wanted to say anything, and instead enjoy the fruits of 90210’s misfortune.