School fire causes $50,000 in damage

An early morning arson fire Tuesday at Glacier High School destroyed a pole-vaulting mat and damaged the track surface.

According to Kalispell Fire Chief Dave Dedman, the mat was a total loss and had already sustained significant damage by the time firefighters responded at 3:20 a.m. The mat’s quick destruction was due partially to its construction.

“It’s a foam, a petroleum-based product, so it burns hot and quick,” Dedman said.

The intense heat generated by the burning mat also damaged a portion of the running track. An adjacent fence and the pole vault standards also were damaged.

Glacier Activities Director Mark Dennehy estimated the damage at $40,000 to $50,000.

Although there are not yet any suspects, Dennehy said preliminary investigation of the school’s security camera footage shows people on the school property at the time of the fire. A school investigation and a Kalispell Police Department investigation are ongoing.

“It’s unfortunate, you don’t ever like to see anything like this,” Dennehy said. “We’re trying to find out what’s up. Once our AP students break today — they have a test — we’re going to put out a message to our students and offer a reward on Crimestoppers.”

The arson leaves Glacier High’s pole vault teams — including Lonnie Sherman, the state’s leading pole vaulter — without their own practice facility.

Dennehy said Flathead High School has stepped in, however, and offered Glacier teams the use of its equipment.

“I believe we’re going to send eight to 10 of our pole vaulters down there and continue where we left off,” Dennehy said, praising Flathead for its assistance. “They’re great, very very helpful and willing to take care of us.”

Anyone with information on the arson can contact Flathead Crimestoppers at 752-8477.



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