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Geoff Liesik, Deseret News
Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont holds a flashlight for deputy Utah state fire marshal Bryan Thatcher as he photographs fire damage inside a custodial closet Wednesday, March 14, 2012, at Mont Harmon Junior High School. The fire was quickly extinguished, but heavy smoke forced the closure of the school for the day.

PRICE — Authorities say a 14-year-old boy Wednesday morning set a fire that forced the evacuation and closure of Mont Harmon Junior High School.

The fire was discovered about 9 a.m. in a janitorial closet on the east side of the school.

A teenage student entered the closet and set up "an electrical appliance" that was already there to start the fire, said Price Fire Chief Paul Bedont.

The teen was identified through interviews and also through a review of school surveillance video, the chief said.

Bedont declined to say what type of appliance was used, but a custodian at the school said she kept a hot plate in the closet.

The woman, who wouldn't provide her name, said she had turned the hot plate off before going to work in another part of the school. When she returned to the closet, she opened the door and said she could see streams of flaming material falling from the ceiling. When the material reached the floor, the entire room caught fire, the woman said.

All students and staff were able to evacuate the school and escape injury.

The blaze was almost out when fire crews arrived, Bedont said. The damage — between $10,000 and $15,000 — was largely contained to the janitorial closet, he said, but could have been much worse.

"We were very fortunate," Bedont said. "Had the fire been allowed to burn much longer, it would have gotten up into the truss system of the school and we would have lost half the school and it could have easily caused a loss of life."

The teen who was arrested is cooperating with investigators, the chief said, but his motive for setting the fire still wasn't clear.

"No idea what his intent was," Bedont said. "I think he'll probably realize the seriousness of it when he meets before the juvenile court judge."

The Carbon School District said classes at Mont Harmon will resume Thursday.

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