published Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Burning of Catoosa County school buses ruled arson

  • photo
    Two Catoosa County school buses were found burned near a baseball park in Ringgold, Ga., on Sunday morning.
    Photo by WRCB-TV Channel 3 /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

TO HELP

Anyone with information is asked to call the State Fire Marshal's office at the arson hotline 1-800-282-5804.

A fire that torched two Catoosa County, Ga., school buses has been ruled arson, and police are looking for suspects in the crime.

Police said they have investigated school buses being damaged but never a fire lighted inside a vehicle's doors.

"It's very unusual," Catoosa County Sheriff's Office Lt. Chris Lyons said.

The fire was reported Sunday morning at a parking lot near the Jack Mattox Baseball Park in Ringgold, where one bus was set on fire and the flames spread to a nearby bus, officials said.

The buses, which serve Graysville Elementary School, Ringgold Middle School and Ringgold High School, were destroyed, school officials said.

Classes begin Tuesday in Catoosa, but officials say the fire won't affect the school system's ability to provide safe transportation to students. Extra buses that don't fit in the garage are parked around town, including at the Ringgold park, county schools spokeswoman Marissa Brower said.

Doug Suits, the district's director of operations, said in a written statement that the charred buses were insured and will be replaced.

"We keep extra buses in our fleet so we can take buses off the road for routine maintenance," he said. "We will use two of these extra buses when school begins."

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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