SKOWHEGAN — Local police and the Office of the State Fire Marshal are investigating a suspicious fire Friday afternoon in a girls’ restroom at Skowhegan Area High School.

The smoky fire set off fire alarms and forced the evacuation of students into the school gymnasium, where they remained until school let out at 2:15 p.m.

The fire appeared to have been intentionally set in a trash can in a girls restroom in the school’s “purple section,” which houses the language arts and history department classrooms. No injuries were reported.

“All I know is someone set a fire in a trash can,” Skowhegan Police Chief Ted Blais said. “It was deliberately set. I asked the officers on the scene if they knew what it was that may have caused this fire and they couldn’t tell at this point in time. It is suspicious. We’ll be investigating, speaking to people who were in the area at the time and we’ll see where that leads.”

The fire was quickly extinguished by faculty members, according to an emergency alert system message sent to parents. Another alert sent to parents at 3:20 p.m. said staff and students could return to pick up belongings.

The fire alarm at the school went off at about 12:45 p.m., Lt. Matthew Quinn of the Skowhegan Fire Department said.

“The kids were evacuated — the smoke alarms came off — it came in initially as a fire alarm sounding, smoke detectors going off,” Quinn said in the corridor outside the restroom where fans were set up to move smoke out of the building. “That automatically give us a full, all-company assignment.”

The approximately 800 students were herded into the area of the school gymnasium when fire officials realized the smoke was only present in the back side of the school facing the football fields. The front of the building, where the main offices are, was not affected.

Quinn said the contents of the trash can burned for a short time before faculty members put out the flames.

“There was a fair amount of smoke — when we got here you could see there was a good charge of smoke in the whole area,” he said. “It was white and you couldn’t see. You would not have been able to breathe in here very well.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter: @Doug_Harlow

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