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San Diego Elementary School Reopens After Arson Fire

A University Heights primary school damaged in an arson fire was scheduled to reopen today.

The noninjury blaze at Alice Birney Elementary in the 4300 block of Campus Avenue broke out about 11:45 p.m. Monday, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

As a result of the fire, the school remained closed Tuesday. But Principal Amanda Hammond-Williams said that today should be "close to a normal day'' for students and staff.

"We'll talk with our students about what happened. Then it's back to work,'' she said.

It took a contingent of 50 firefighters roughly 20 minutes to get the flames under control, Battalion Chief John Fischer said.

Investigators determined that someone had intentionally sparked the blaze by spreading around some type of flammable liquid and igniting it, SDFRD spokesman Maurice Luque told reporters.

The flames and smoke heavily damaged the school's combination auditorium- cafeteria and adjacent kitchen. Damage was estimated at $600,000.

There were no immediate indications that the crime was related to several arson fires that damaged a church about a half-mile from the school in December, according to Luque.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever set Monday night's fire.

The federal agency had previously posted a bounty of the same amount for the person or persons responsible for the recent arson crimes at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 2000 block of Adams Avenue.

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