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Front Page » February 18, 2003 » Opinion » Where are they now? Someone knows
Published 4,213 days ago

Where are they now? Someone knows


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By RICHARD SHAW
Staff reporter

Over the past three months I've spent a good deal of time researching an event that happened in the mid-1970's that affected the whole community; the fire that destroyed the Price Elementary School in May of 1974.

I interviewed people, did research on newspaper archives and picked a lot of peoples memories about the event. Two weeks ago we finally published the story in the Feb. 4 edition of the Sun Advocate.

In the end, the story turned out to be much more than I anticipated it would be. I knew from the beginning that arson had been a strong possibility, even though official agencies in the community had disagreed with each other as to what the cause was at the time. However, when I began my research, I had no idea that a number of other fires had occurred in the 20 months surrounding that blaze and that many of their causes were suspicious as well.

In the end I found myself with a bigger mystery than I began with. A possibly simple case of a kid or two breaking into an elementary school and creating a blaze to get back at a teacher or principal turned into the possibility of a serial arsonist who, in retrospect, completely eluded the authorities at the time.

From the information I could garner, however, the only blaze that came under truly serious evaluation was the school fire, and a number of individuals were questioned in connection with that event. However, according to officials at the time, no solid suspects were ever found.

Certainly it's easy to speculate what happened in those two years; in hind sight it is easy for people today to say someone should have done this or that. Remember all the fires, or only two or three of them, or even none of them at all may have connections to each other.

But the two fires that were almost surely arson were the school and a lumber yard fire. A fire in an old ice cream factory near Railroad Avenue may also have been started by a person.

The point is that in my 12 years residing in Carbon County I can only remember a couple of fires in all that time that did any real damage to businesses, industry or institutions. Why then were there so many fires in that short space of 20 months in Carbon County? Didn't that raise a few eyebrows? And if it didn't, why not? I got little indication looking at the newspapers from the time that it did. Often when we are in the middle of something we can't see the proverbial forest for the trees. And somewhere in those trees is an individual who was the perpetraiter for at least some of the trouble.

I know that now, 29 years later, the statute of limitations has probably passed on any criminal action on this matter, yet the actions of someone three decades ago still costs this community daily. Someone out there, besides the arsonist, knows who did it.

Wouldn't it be nice if they told the rest of us?


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February 18, 2003
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