Projected Crestline costs: $22 million

Suspect's parents could be sued for damages, insurance official says

By Paris Achen and Susan Parrish

Published:

 
photoDylan Mork As seen on his Facebook page, which has since been taken down.

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The overall cost of the Crestline Elementary School fire is projected to spiral to $22 million by September when a replacement school opens, officials with Evergreen Public Schools said Wednesday.

The updated cost estimate followed Tuesday's news that the Feb. 3, 2013, fire was human-caused and that law enforcement had identified a juvenile suspect in the case.

Dylan Mork, 17, of Vancouver is scheduled to appear in Clark County Juvenile Court on May 21 on a charge of second-degree arson. The three-alarm early morning fire destroyed the school, at 13003 S.E. Seventh St., and displaced 500 students and 50 staff for the rest of last school year and all of this year.

The $22 million estimate includes only Evergreen Public Schools' costs; it doesn't account for the cost of fighting the fire or fire investigators' time.

Of Evergreen's total, $18 million is the cost to build a new school at the same site. That includes demolition, construction, parking lot, landscaping and furnishings. The school district estimates that other costs will reach $4 million, including temporary housing for last school year and the current school year, additional student transportation, staff changes and moving from temporary quarters to the new Crestline in August.

"We have really firm numbers through February, and what we anticipate what costs will be through fall," said Gail Spolar, school district spokeswoman.

Evergreen's insurance through the Schools Insurance Association of Washington will pay for most of that cost, with some matching funds from the School Construction Assistance Program through the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

An official with Canfield, the third-party administrator for the schools insurance association, said Wednesday that an attorney will explore options for recovering losses from the fire. That could include suing Mork's parents for damages.

"We have to let the criminal side play out, but the attorney will put the parents on notice of a potential claim," said Phil Riche, Canfield's vice president. He said that the notice would likely go out in the next 30 days.

Suspect cooperates

Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli responded to a statement made Tuesday by Mork's attorney, Jack Green, that Mork had cooperated with investigators since the beginning of the 14-month investigation. Mork was 15 at the time of the fire, according to court records.

Scarpelli said investigators didn't disclose until Tuesday that they had a person of interest or a suspected cause of the fire because they wanted to verify the information Mork provided to them and to complete their investigation before releasing anything publicly.

"We wanted to do testing to validate different facts that had been presented to us," Scarpelli said.

The testing was conducted at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lab in Maryland, and the results of those tests weren't available until recently.

The cause of the fire and the suspect's motive have yet to be made public. Scarpelli said she wouldn't comment further on the details of the investigation because she didn't want to compromise the court case against Mork.

Spolar said Mork is a junior at Mountain View High School and a first-year student in the restaurant management program at the Clark County Skills Center.

He never attended Crestline Elementary.

She would not say whether Mork had been expelled or suspended from high school.

School ready Aug. 1

The new Crestline school is set to be completed Aug. 1 to give teachers time to move in and set up their classrooms. The school will have upgraded technology, security and notably, fire-suppression systems. Those weren't required at the time the original Crestline was constructed in the early 1970s. The new school is being built to an updated plan that resembles Endeavour Elementary.

After the fire, students and staff were divided by grade level and sent to five elementary schools for the remaining four months of last school year. This school year, students and staff are housed at temporary quarters on the former Hewlett-Packard campus on Southeast 34th Street that is now owned by SEH America.