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Fire That Destroyed Elgin School Buses May Be Arson

The charred remains of a school bus in Elgin after a fire overnight. (Credit: Susanna Song/CBS 2)

The charred remains of a school bus in Elgin after a fire overnight. (Credit: Susanna Song/CBS 2)

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UPDATED 09/30/11 11:17 a.m.

ELGIN, Ill. (CBS) — Four Elgin school buses were reduced to charred husks in a fire in a parking lot Friday morning, and if it’s a school prank, someone will be in serious trouble.

As CBS 2’s Susanna Song reports, the buses were burned in the parking lot of the Prairie View Grade School, at 10-N-630 Nesler Rd. in unincorporated Elgin. School officials and authorities are calling the fire highly suspicious, and say it is highly unlikely that the buses caught fire on their own.

“We can’t say that it’s arson right now, but very suspicious – you know, you’ve got four buses out here in the middle of the parking lot at 4 in the morning that are on fire,” Kane County sheriff’s Lt. Pat Gengler said. “That definitely raises our suspicions that this is something that was probably intentional.”

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

As of 11 a.m., authorities were on the scene gathering evidence and assessing the damage. Each bus costs about $80,000.

Kane County sheriff’s police got a call around 4 a.m. that a bus was on fire in the parking lot. By the time deputies arrived, all four buses were ablaze.

School officials say luckily this did not impact pick up times, other buses were re-routed and kids were all at school on time. But officials were still shocked and upset by the act.

“We’re very concerned about that – obviously, taxpayers provide for the education of the children in this district, and we take their education seriously, and providing a safe environment for the students to learn in,” said School District 301 Supt. Todd Stirn.

The principal of the school, Dan Schuth, said he does not believe the security of the school has been jeopardized, so classes are running as usual.

“I’m clearly very upset for the community,” Schuth said. “This is a family community, and it certainly changes the dynamics. But it doesn’t change what we’re doing. We’re educating students and we’re taking the day as normal.”

Parents were notified via e-mail about this situation, and teachers were asked to talk with students who are concerned or worried.

There are no cameras in the parking lot that would have caught the possible suspects.

The Kane County Fire Investigation Task Force and the sheriff’s office are trying to determine the cause of the fire, and if it was indeed arson, who was responsible.