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Separate fires spark school evacuations

LAWRENCEVILLE — Two schools in Gwinnett County were evacuated Wednesday in separate incidents involving small fires, one of which is being investigated as arson, officials said.

At Radloff Middle School, a plastic toilet paper dispenser in a stall in a boys bathroom was intentionally set on fire about 2:45 p.m., Gwinnett County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge said.

The incident activated fire alarms, and school personnel evacuated the building. A school administrator doused the fire with a fire extinguisher, Rutledge said.

Fire investigators are working with school administrators and the school resource officer to determine who started the fire, Rutledge said.

Firefighters also cleared the school of light smoke, and students were able to return inside about 3:10 p.m.

Earlier in the day, students at Dacula Elementary School waited outside for just over an hour while firefighters investigated a smoky smell. School officials detected the odor about 9:45 a.m. and called the Gwinnett County Fire Department.

The smell was traced to an electrical closet on the first floor, where firefighters determined a small fire in a fan had extinguished before they arrived, Fire Department spokesman Capt. Thomas Rutledge. The fan was used to keep the electrical panel cool.

Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said the fan had burned out. District maintenance crews went to the school to repair the fan.

No structural damage or injuries were reported in either case.

Rutledge praised both schools for having established fire escape plans and training personnel to mitigate a situation before it gets out of control.

“The quick actions of school staff and proper evacuation of students contributed to the successful outcome of the incident(s),” Rutledge said.

No structural damage was reported in either case.