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Series of fires sparks USNA investigation

Sep. 19, 2013 - 02:54PM   |  
The Naval Academy Band stands in formation in front of Bancroft Hall in this file photo. Two of the 11 trash fires set at the academy were in Bancroft Hall.
The Naval Academy Band stands in formation in front of Bancroft Hall in this file photo. Two of the 11 trash fires set at the academy were in Bancroft Hall. (Navy)
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NCIS is investigating the cause of seven fires set around the Naval Academy campus since Sept. 9.

The incidents have primarily taken place in men’s bathrooms, Academy spokesman Cmdr. John Schofield confirmed.

“At no time was the safety of the midshipmen, staff, faculty or residents of USNA in danger,” Schofield said. “While the possibility exists that these incidents were either pranks or circumstantial accidents, the Naval Academy nevertheless has asked NCIS to investigate.”

Two fires reportedly occurred in residential Bancroft Hall. The rest occurred in academic buildings: two in Maury Hall and one each in Chauvenet, Michelson and Mahan halls.

Schofield confirmed that the fire department was notified and the buildings evacuated following each report, though he could not confirm exactly where they occurred in each building. Additional security watches have been set up in response.

“These incidents were not serious, but they are not being taken lightly,” Schofield said, adding he could not confirm whether the academy had any suspects.

In screenshots of an unofficial Facebook group for Naval Academy parents, provided to Navy Times, members discussed the incidents and provided details they said they received from their mids.

“Someone is apparently lighting paper towels in the bathrooms,” wrote one individual ... “Special protective watches are being stood.”

Some parents were reporting that the academy was on a terror alert, but Schofield said the rumors were “completely false.”

“This has not resulted in any change to the Naval Academy’s force protection posture,” Schofield said

Schofield stressed that installation safety and security are of the utmost importance and the academy remains vigilant.

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