John Cutland heard about a portable being razed at his school in Stittsville around 2 a.m. Wednesday morning.
“But I had no idea it was my homeroom,” said the grade 12 student at Sacred Heart Catholic High School. “It was a portable for Mr. White. He teaches philosophy.”
A 911 call came in at 1:54 a.m. for a blaze at the school.
Ottawa Police say it was deliberately set and are looking for two male suspects, spotted on school property between midnight and 1 a.m.
“They had broken into some of the portables, there were some items taken and then at some point a fire was set in the portable beside us here,” Sgt. David Christie from the arson investigation unit said at the scene.
Firefighters had it under control in less than 20 minutes and total damage is estimated at $100,000, said Ottawa Fire investigator Jimmy Fata.
No injuries were reported.
Students arrived to find police tape cordoning off the scene.
“I thought that maybe it was just going to be like, the siding was off or something, but it was literally burned to the ground,” said grade 10 student Aly Wing.
“There’s almost nothing left.”
That sight had Julia Malette feeling spooked.
“It could’ve been the classroom I was in,” she said.
Cutland said he usually arrived at school early because White would “play a lot of rock’n roll music” on a “big, expensive boombox.”
The boombox is gone, along with textbooks and desks.
“I think I left some notes in there,” said Cutland, adding his group was moved inside to an art classroom.
Students in the five remaining portables were all relocated indoors and a school board spokeswoman said it’s “business as usual.”
Investigators are ruling out a link between this fire and two recent cases of arson at new houses under construction in the west Ottawa community.
On Sept. 2 and Sept. 5, two new homes were destroyed by fire overnight, just weeks before their owners were to move in.
“I think those were a separate incident,” said Christie.
But Wing said she’s worried because she lives close to all three areas where the fires were set.
“You don’t really feel safe anymore and you don’t really know if anything else is going to happen,” she said.
Wing has company.
“It seems like our school is a target for something and it’s just really scary to come to school and know that,” said Jessica Melone.
Administration at the Ottawa Catholic School Board wouldn’t say if specific security measures are being taken.
“We’re working with the Ottawa police to ensure the safety of our students,” said director of education Julian Hanlon.