The blaze that destroyed the old gym at the A.L. Miller High School complex was deliberately set.
Monday afternoon, arson investigators searched the charred buildings looking for any signs that an accelerant was used to start Friday’s fire that gutted the gym and charred an adjacent classroom building. Carly, a black Labrador from the State Fire Marshal’s Office trained to detect flammable chemicals, sniffed through the rubble of the building built in 1950.
“The dog did her job,” said Sgt. Ben Gleaton, lead fire investigator for the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department.
State investigators are assisting Gleaton in trying to identify clues to lead to an arrest.
The fire was initially labeled suspicious as no utilities were hooked up to the old school, which had not been used in decades.
Just before 12:30 a.m. Friday, firefighters arrived to find flames shooting through the roof of the gym on the back of the property near Hendley Street.
The inferno melted the steel girder skeleton that is now twisted metal on the floor of the roof-less building.
Although the gym was gutted, Jim Huffstetler, the project manager of the planned A.L. Miller Village, believes the outer walls can be secured and saved.
That structure was not part of the planned apartment complex, but had been talked about as a possible site for a new senior citizens center, he said.
“We could build a new structure inside of the existing walls,” said Huffstetler, who was back at the school Monday. “Some of the walls would have to come down for safety reasons, but most of the walls can remain intact.”
The classroom building, which will be converted into apartments, suffered some fire damage, but mostly smoke and water problems.
Although investigators did not initially share their findings with Huffstetler, he expects to begin work on the 62 apartment units as planned next month.
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