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Arson not suspected in Superior school fire

Superior firefighters come down from the roof at Cooper Elementary School in Superior on Monday afternoon after a section of fire reignited late Monday morning. (Jed Carlson / jcarlson@superiortelegram.com)

Superior fire officials said Tuesday that the cause of the fires Sunday and Monday that left an estimated $1.5 million in damage to the new Cooper Elementary School remains undetermined, but arson is not suspected.

The Superior Fire Department released a rough timeline of the fires that damaged the school building under construction adjacent to the current school building at 1807 Missouri Ave.

Fire inspectors suspect the initial fire Sunday night started in the gymnasium storage area, burned through a one-inch flexible rubber natural-gas line and then went out.

Gas flowing from the boiler room reached the heat from the original fire, firefighters reported, causing an explosion, a process that was repeated multiple times.

Fire crews shut off the gas to the building, stopping the flow, and knocked down the fire. A hot spot from the original fire rekindled on the roof nine hours later.

Once the roof fire was extinguished, the site was examined by local and state investigators. No one was injured in the fires.

The new school, which was in its final few months of construction, had been slated to open in the fall. Cooper Principal Aaron Lieberz reported in an online message Tuesday that it's not yet known how the fire will affect that timeline.

"Investigators have to determine the cause of the original fire. Once that is complete, insurance adjusters will have to complete their own investigation. Once the dust settles, clean up and repairs will begin," he wrote. "We will work closely with (contractor) Kraus-Anderson during this process and overcome this setback."

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