Arson destroys sports complex at Shelton High

SHELTON HIGH: Damage totals about $300,000

September 6, 2011 

Shelton High School’s football and baseball practice gear and equipment – among other items totaling approximately $100,000 – were lost in Sunday’s early-morning fire that destroyed a school’s sports complex built by three students as part of a senior project.

Shelton athletic director Jim Judson said Monday that it was too early to have an exact count of what was lost, but all of the football program’s blocking sleds, sled pads, dummies and cones and numerous footballs were gone, in addition to 100 shoulder pads. Judson said none of the football program’s game-day gear was damaged; it was being stored elsewhere at the time of the fire.

The baseball program’s practice gear and equipment was also lost in the fire, including bats, batting helmets and 100 dozen baseballs. The baseball game-day gear was not in the complex that burned.

The fire broke out less than 48 hours after the football team’s 69-6 season-opening loss to North Thurston on Friday night at Highclimber Stadium. The Highclimbers continue nonleague play this Friday against Black Hills at Tumwater District Stadium.

“Emotions are really raw right now,” Judson said. “It’s more emotionally draining than anything.”

Three baseball players – Colton Twiddy, Joe Strand and Forrest Peterbaugh – spent much of their summer building the complex, which sat at the varsity baseball field, as part of their senior projects. The complex was about 80 percent complete and was set to be used as a multi-use facility – a combination of press box, dugout, concession stand and offices for baseball, as well as storage units.

Firefighters from Mason County Fire District 5 arrived shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday to find the 2,400-square-foot building in flames. The fire was quickly put out, but fire crews found another small fire at a woodshed some 50 yards away.

Tim McKern, chief of Mason County Fire District 5, said the two fires were “definitely arson” after crews discovered all the doors to the first building were kicked in and a 5-gallon gas can was missing. Little could be done to save the two-story building, designed by Shelton baseball coach Erik Engstrom. The total amount of damage to the building and its contents topped $300,000.

Shelton football coach Matt Hinkle said his team had a “pretty good” practice Monday afternoon.

Of the three students who built the facility, Strand also plays football. “We focused on what needed to be done,” Hinkle said. “We’ll be able to replace that stuff. I feel sorry for those kids in particular. It’s disappointing this puts a crummy light on Shelton.”

Wednesday is the first day of school in the Shelton School District, and Judson said talks will begin to examine if insurance will pay for the damages, and to set up funds to help replace the equipment and the complex.

“I know there’s interest out there to support us,” Judson said. “We need to look how we can embrace such support and how we’re going to recover from it. … We can begin the healing process of getting it back under construction.”

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473

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