State investigates Terrell Co. High School Fire

Ga. State investigators looking into Dawson fire. / Jessica Fairley

Authorities have determined that the old Terrell County High School that went up in a blaze of fire was deliberately set.

Arson investigators from the state found that the fire was started in the auditorium via the use of a flammable liquid accelerant according to Dawson Public Safety Director Chief Charlie Whitehead.

State investigators have sent samples from the fire to be tested and determine exactly what accelerant was used. It could take weeks before those results are back.

The Georgia Office of Insurance and Fire Safety has offered a reward of up to ten thousand dollars for information leading to an arrest in the case.

Initial Story
Georgia State Fire Marshals are looking into a fire that left the old Terrell County Middle High School in ruins.

A Dawson Police Investigator said they have an inkling as to what caused the fire and now they are waiting on the state's confirmation.

Sunday morning just after 11:00 a.m. officials got a call stating there was smoke coming from the old Terrell County Middle High School. Once on the scene officials found the building engulfed in flames. At that point, they said the only solution was to let it burn and try to contain the blaze. Once the fire cooled, state officials got involved.

"The State Fire Marshals sent a team down from Atlanta and they were here to investigate and try to find out where the fire started," said Dawson Police Chief Charlie Whitehead.

They sifted through charred ruins of outdated school records and unused office furniture that was stored inside the building, determining that it started from the center of the school. Local investigators said there were no utilities on inside the school and this may be a case of arson.

"That's always a possibility because the fire was suspicious in nature," said Police Chief Whitehead.

He said investigators reviewed police surveillance video and found nothing out of the ordinary. It's not unusual to have back and forth movement, explained Whitehead.

The chief said Dawson officials won't know what really started the blaze until the Georgia State Crime Lab releases their results.

Terrell County officials said now that the structure is destroyed; they want to utilize the building by making it useful for the school board.

"We're going to clear the property and hopefully in the future build some kind of complex or annex," said Terrell County School Superintendent Robert Aaron.

He said he hates to see nearly 80 years of the town's history go up in flames but hopefully something beautiful will arise from the ashes.

The Dawson Police Chief believes it will be about a month before the state's results come back.