Catoosa County school bus fires ruled arson, reward offered
RINGGOLD, GA (WRCB) - Georgia state fire investigators say someone intentionally set two Catoosa County school buses on fire. They're offering a hefty reward for help in the case.
The two buses suspiciously went up in flames around 3:30 a.m. Sunday in Ringgold. Now, they're just charred shells. Catoosa County School officials are pleading for the public's help in catching the arsonist or arsonists before they lose any more buses.
Seats are disintegrated, glass and plastics melted, and pretty much everything else is ashes. A charred area of grass shows where the two Catoosa County school buses were parked early Sunday morning. It's a fenced off side lot at the Jack Mattox Baseball Park on Pine Grove Road.
"Seen the bus that was already charred and the one on the right sitting right up against it," neighbor Betty Walker says.
It was a shocking sight for Walker as she headed to church Sunday morning. Like many neighbors, she was sleeping while it all went down.
"I told my son-in-law, I said, I believe somebody done that," Walker says.
It didn't take the state fire marshal's office long to come to the same conclusion. They ruled it arson Monday morning.
Catoosa School officials were immediately notified. They say vandalism against their property has never gone this far.
"Oh my goodness, you know, you jump to your feet to start to get dressed and you're just thinking, well how in the world could this happen," Catoosa County Schools Director of Operations Doug Suits says.
They say the two drivers always park there, because it makes sense for their routes that travel between Graysville Elementary, Ringgold Middle and High. Neighbors say everybody around there knows that's where they stay.
"No telling who done it, but a lot of times this parking lot here is full of cars," neighbor Buster Smith says.
The Georgia Arson Control Program is funding a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
"We want to send a message that this is not acceptable and we can not tolerate this kind of behavior," Suits says.
The buses cost around $90,000 each. They say insurance should cover most of it, but they'll use tax dollars already earmarked for education if needed.
"For somebody to set a bus like that on fire is just a shame," Smith says.
Catoosa School officials say parents shouldn't worry about a bus shortage. They have backup buses they'll use.
They say they will continue parking them in that same lot.
To submit tips to investigators and possibly get that reward, call the Georgia Arson Control hotline at 1-800-282-5804.