A recent arson incident at Peninsula High School has the Gig Harbor community searching for answers and those responsible.
Students were the first to notice the incident on the morning of Sept. 27, reporting the destruction of a bench in front of the school memorializing a beloved school counselor, said Principal Dave Goodwin.
A review of the security tapes for Sept. 26 revealed a suspect near the bench just after 9 p.m. The suspect is seen briefly leaving and then returning six minutes later with a bag of garbage and a gas can. A flash of fire and the figure is seen running away as the bench burned.
From the footage, the suspect appears to be a young white male wearing a light colored hoodie and dark pants.
The bench was destroyed by the fire and the school building was charred up to the second floor of the school building. There was no report of the fire, which is thought to have burned quickly because of an accelerant, before self-extinguishing.
This is something that’s a little more meaningful than a bench. (Blauvelt) was just a special person ... she really went above and beyond when caring for kids. She was an advocate for kids, which really is above and beyond being a counselor.
Dave Goodwin, PHS principal
“We’re just lucky it didn’t catch the tree on fire above the bench,” Goodwin said.
More than a simple seat, the torched bench is one of three built in 2014 by PHS student Jon Crane for his Eagle Project.
A plaque dedicated the bench to Colleen Blauvelt, a beloved and long-time counselor at the school who died from cancer in 2014.
“This is something that’s a little more meaningful than a bench,” Goodwin said. “(Blauvelt) was just a special person ... she really went above and beyond when caring for kids. She was an advocate for kids, which really is above and beyond being a counselor.”
The Peninsula School District moved quickly to remove and replace the destroyed bench the next day, Goodwin said, and included a new plaque memorializing Blauvelt.
“The district really responded quickly to make sure that we didn’t have this eyesore out there with what some jerk had done,” he said.
Goodwin said that anonymous tips are a common way for the PHS administration to find out information on incidents around the school, by emphasizing the students’ ownership of the school and responsibility to report wrongdoing.
So far, officials have received very little information about the incident, which leads Goodwin to theorize that the arsonist might not be a PHS student.
“It’s scary whenever you have someone acting alone like this,” he said. “This is very unusual.”
Tacoma/Pierce County Crime Stoppers
Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact the Tacoma/Pierce County Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).
A reward of $1,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and charges filed against the person responsible.