5 teens sought in Hephzibah High fire, vandalism

Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
The blaze at Hephzibah High School was reported at about 4 a.m. Thursday. The five teenagers wanted in the fire are also suspected of other incidents of vandalism around the school.

Authorities are looking for five teenagers in connection with an arson early Thursday that badly damaged an indoor JROTC firing range at Hephzibah High School.


Officials said the building will cost $500,000 to replace, and the same teens also are wanted in some vandalism that occurred at other areas of the school.

"(The fire) was intentionally set," said Glenn Allen, a spokesman for state Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner John Oxendine's office, which was called in by Hephzibah officials to assist in the investigation. "Currently we have video of five teenagers vandalizing the school. We are asking those five teenagers to turn themselves in to the Hephzibah Police Department."

Surveillance video wasn't released Thursday, but Allen said the vandalism and the fire resulted from the actions of two white females, one white male and two black males, all in their late teens.

Allen said Oxendine's office assisted in part by providing a canine that helped detect an accelerant.

"We do believe that available materials were used to set the fires," he said, declining to detail exactly what started the blaze.

Richmond County schools Facilities Director Benton Starks said the fire was reported about 4 a.m. Thursday. He said the 3,000-square-foot wooden structure, which is not attached to the Brothersville Road school's main building, is a total loss. He also said some pellet rifles and JROTC uniforms were damaged.

"I don't think we're going to save anything," he said.

Starks said officials found vandalism at a softball storage area and concession stand in the football stadium. Ketchup was smeared inside the concession, and equipment from the storage area was strewn about.

$10,000 Reward

Call the state's arson hot line at (800) 282-5804 with any information on Thursday's fire at Hephzibah High School. Anyone who provides information leading to an arrest and conviction could receive $10,000.



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