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DA: La Pine teens didn’t intend to destroy school


Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel said Monday that four teens charged with arson and other crimes in a July 1 blaze the damaged the La Pine Middle School gym’s roof were not trying to destroy the school.

“These kids did not set out to burn down the school,” Hummel told NewsChannel 21. “They were being irresponsible with fire, and it got out of hand.”

While other details have not been released, the DA also confirmed that “fireworks were not involved” in the early-morning blaze.

Joshua J. Frontel, 18, and three male juveniles – two 16 and one 17 – whose names were not released were found to have been involved in the fire during a sheriff’s office investigation assisted by Oregon State Police, the La Pine Rural Fire District and school staff, according to a news release issued later by sheriff’s Sgt. Don Manning and Det. Steve Mangin.

The fire was reported around 5:10 a.m. Wednesday, July 1 by a Bend-La Pine Schools staff member who saw flames and black smoke coming from the gym’s roof, the deputies said.

La Pine firefighters quickly extinguished the fire on the roof, which had been undergoing maintenance at the time, they said.

“The fire was believed to be intentionally caused,” the news release stated.

The four teens were contacted by sheriff’s deputies and detectives “and cooperated with the investigation,” the sergeant and detective said.

Along with second-degree arson, the four face charges of first-degree criminal mischief and second-degree criminal trespass. They were cited in lieu of custody and released to their parents, while the evidence in the case will be presented to the district attorney’s office, deputies said.

While the fire allegedly was intentionally set, “this is believed to be an isolated incident and not part of a larger attempt to damage public or private property,” they added.

Manning would not disclose details on how the teens allegedly started the fire pending completion of reports to the DA’s office.

The fire caused less than $10,000 in damage to the roof, which will need repairs in several locations, school district spokeswoman Julianne Repman said. She said an early assessment of damages will involve removing mastic (glue) from many surfaces and repainting damaged areas.

La Pine Fire Chief Mike Supkis had said the fire was “malicious and an arson event.”

Two engine companies and 10 firefighters responded, made entry to the school and got to the roof, stretching hose lines to quickly knock down the blaze within 15 minutes, he said.

A mutual-aid request was made for the closest ladder truck from the Sunriver Fire Department, and Deschutes County sheriff’s deputies secured the scene.

The school was unoccupied, as it’s summer break, and no injuries were reported.

Supkis said the fire caused “significant damage” to the gym’s roof, but damage was “limited within the interior of the building.”

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